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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 10 March 2016) . . Page.. 1003 ..

Australia has one of the highest rates per capita of drug use in the world; so the system we are using—the approach we have taken—is broken. It is not doing the job we want it to do. I wish people did not take these drugs. In my perfect world, they would not. But the bottom line is that they do, and the approaches that are being put in place have not changed that. It is time for something different. It is time to try new approaches if we are ever going to break the cycle that we seem to be in.

We also saw a blurring of the lines, because suddenly the words “drugs liberalisation” crept into the debate. I never use that term. That was Mr Hanson’s term. I do not believe in drug liberalisation. I talked very specifically about decriminalisation and compared that quite clearly and quite specifically to legalisation, which I do not support.

I believe that we should decriminalise individual use, but certainly not the supply. The enforcement dollars we are spending should be targeted at the supply end of the spectrum rather than some kid who goes to a dance party whose mates say, “Hey, take this pill.” They should not be subject to a criminal penalty. Why should some 19-year-old end up with a criminal record because they got peer-pressured by their mates at a music festival? Why should they risk taking a drug that is contaminated and possibly end up in hospital, or worse, when we could put policies in place that would avoid those terrible outcomes?

We also heard from Mr Hanson about how, because I am a minister, I should not be prepared to debate these issues. I just think that is wrong. It is important that we have these discussions. I am not touting some message about “go for it”. I would be the last person to say that. I am not interested in young people taking drugs. But in the real world, where they are taking them, we need to think about what we are going to do.

I actually think that Mr Hanson does young people a discredit. I think they understand the nuance. These days the average 19-year-old—or, for that matter an 18-year-old or a 17-year-old—is pretty sophisticated on a whole lot of issues. They do make some bad decisions. They are actually a very interesting group. They are incredibly worldly in some regards and incredibly they still make poor decisions in others. That is the environment in which we are operating and in which these actions are taking place.

I am disappointed that the Assembly has not supported this motion today and that we have not been able to take the step to be a little bit bolder and try to move beyond the current situation that we are stuck in. I welcome some of the more progressive comments from members. I will continue to discuss this. I hope that in future we can be more courageous and look at the evidence, the things that seem to be working in other jurisdictions, and be willing to try them here in the ACT so that we can tackle the scourge of drugs in our society.

Question put:

That Mr Hanson’s amendment to Mr Corbell’s proposed amendment be agreed to.

Amendment agreed to.

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