27 September 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise in support of the Controlled Substances (Pure Amounts) Amendment Bill on behalf of the Greens. As both the Attorney-General and the Hon. Michelle Lensink have stated, as a result of the recent Court of Appeal decision in the case Kingston v The Queen, it has been revealed that there is a loophole where pure forms of drugs are not set out in the regulations.
We believe that the bill the government has introduced today remedies this, plugs that gap in the legislation and ensures that the legislation better reflects the will of the community. I think it is fair to say that there was considerable shock in the community in response to that verdict and considerable concern about what that might mean, and so we welcome the government's decision to bring this legislation forward.
I will put on the record that, whilst the Greens support penalties for trafficking and the distribution of large quantities of some drugs and support closing this loophole, we do also believe that it is important when dealing with drugs that we have a discussion around harm minimisation and around reducing the stigma often associated with those who take illegal substances.
The war on drugs does not work. We have seen around the world governments moving towards legalising and regulating some drugs, such as cannabis, and we should be looking at drugtaking from a health perspective, not a law and order perspective. My colleague, the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC, has introduced a bill to legalise cannabis, and I do hope that this parliament considers it as a step forward in terms of dealing with drugs from a harm minimisation perspective rather than a criminal law response.
There are a number of strategies that we can take to implement a health-based approach to drugs. Recently, I called on the Malinauskas government to make pill testing available in our state. In July, the ACT government opened the nation's first fixed-site pill and drug testing clinic, and next month I will be travelling to the ACT to have a look at that site.
This kind of testing facility is greatly needed here in South Australia. Pill testing services exist in 20 countries across Europe, the Americas and New Zealand. Pill testing is a harm reduction strategy that not only makes drugs safer but also provides transparency around what is in the market, an important measure to improve user knowledge and education, and one that discourages people from using potentially harmful substances. In 2019, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 57 per cent of Australians supported pill testing, with only 27 per cent being directly opposed.
We should be looking to early intervention measures to ensure drug takers are informed and make safe decisions. The South Australian Network of Drug and Alcohol Services in their 2022 position paper on drug law reform states that seeking to address related harms through the criminalisation of people who use drugs is neither effective nor humane. SANDAS takes the position that there should be a strong criminal justice response to the manufacturing, supplying and trafficking of drugs outside of a regulated supply system, but that personal use should not be stigmatised or criminalised.
SANDAS has a number of recommendations for legislative reform that I encourage members of this place, in particular the government, to consider as we move forward in addressing drugs as a health issue. That said, we recognise, of course, that this bill is dealing with trafficking and selling of drugs, and in the Greens we do draw that distinction between the users of the end product and those who are seeking to traffic and sell drugs. On this basis, we are supportive of the bill.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
Amendment No 1 [Simms–1]—
Page 2, line 3—Delete 'Plebiscite (South East Council Amalgamation)' and substitute:
South East Council Amalgamation (Plebiscite and Oversight)
I will speak very briefly because I did indicate where we are at in terms of our position in my second reading speech. What this amendment seeks to do is require that a poll be conducted before an amalgamation under the Local Government Act 1999 proceeds.
This would insert a new section that says that the Governor cannot make a proclamation amalgamating the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier to form a single council unless a poll is held in each of the councils and the Electoral Commissioner certifies to the Governor that a majority of electors voting at the poll in the District Council of Grant support the proposition of the poll and a majority of electors voting at the poll in the City of Mount Gambier support the proposition submitted in the poll. The proposition would be: do you support the amalgamation of the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier to form a single council?
My rationale in proposing this amendment is that this would provide constituents in the councils of Grant and Mount Gambier with real certainty heading into this plebiscite process. It means that they could participate in the plebiscite asking whether or not the government should investigate a merger, knowing that there is no risk that this could be seen as support for a merger itself, knowing that they are not in a position where they could potentially see a forced amalgamation by stealth. Rather, they would be in a position of knowing that the consultation the government is embarking on is indeed open-ended, knowing that they would then have the right to veto any potential amalgamation proposal. I do think that should be a template adopted when one is talking about amalgamations, to ensure that there is no risk of the needs of smaller councils being subjugated to the larger council bodies.
So, from our perspective in the Greens, this is really important insurance. It is protection for the people of Grant and Mount Gambier. Indeed, if supported, this would be a really important template in terms of dealing with council amalgamations in the future. But I do hope, of course, that the government does not have a council amalgamation agenda in mind because I think it might face a bumpy road in this place.