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Controlled Substances (Destruction of Seized Property) Amendment Bill

22 February 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (11:44): I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens on the Controlled Substances (Destruction of Seized Property) Amendment Bill 2024. In doing so, I indicate from the outset that the Greens are not supportive of this bill. It appears to be driven by a desire to minimise inconvenience for the government and, indeed, the courts, and that is not a good reason to infringe the rights of defendants.

It is a very important principle, actually, in our justice system, that we do not junk the rights of individual defendants simply because it is inconvenient or because there is a significant administrative burden that is associated with the maintenance of justice in our system. I think the Hon. Connie Bonaros has detailed those concerns. I do not intend to reventilate those arguments, but I think the points she has made are very sound, and, indeed, the Greens would associate ourselves with those remarks.

The bill allows the police to destroy hydroponic equipment that has been used for illegal purposes at the time when they would typically seize it. It provides for cost recovery of collection, transportation and dismantling of equipment without exceeding a maximum set by regulations. I understand it contains transitional provisions that cost recovery is only for cases after the bill commences. However, it does allow the police to destroy equipment that they already have in storage. I think this is one of the key issues that the Hon. Connie Bonaros has touched upon and which does concern us in the Greens as well: the impact on potential evidence.

We are concerned, also, about the cost-recovery provisions. Indeed, I refer to correspondence from the Law Society addressed to the Attorney-General where they note that:

The Society notes some concern as to a convicted person being required to meet these costs given the difficulty in ascertaining whether the costs incurred are indeed reasonable. As you may be aware, the Society raised similar concerns at the costs recovery aspects in amendments to section 58 of the Summary Offences Act…effected by the Summary Offences (Obstruction of Public Places) Amendment Act 2023 (SA).

I will not reopen that festering sore on our democracy, Mr President. You know my views on that draconian piece of legislation. Suffice to say the Greens are persuaded by the concerns of the Law Society, and that is why we are putting forward an amendment that would remove those particular provisions. I look forward to the discussion in the committee stage, but, as I say, we are not supportive of the bill for the reasons I have outlined.