February 11, 2016  |  second reading speech

Access To Medicinal Cannabis Bill (2015)

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my honour to speak on the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015. It was also great to be in the house to hear some of the contributions from this side — and I commend the member for Melton and the member for Essendon before him. I was here to hear those two passionate speeches on why this policy is right. I also want to begin by acknowledging Rhett and Cassie, who are here today. I know the member for Melton touched on the leadership of the Premier. We are not meant to use electronic devices excessively here, but there was the most beautiful photo, I think, that symbolised the relationship that the Premier has developed with the Wallace family. The photo is of the Premier on the steps of Parliament House wishing Cooper Wallace his happy fifth birthday. I just want to read out the Premier’s statement. He said:

Cooper wasn’t expected to make it to two, but thanks to medicinal cannabis products and the hard work of his loving parents, Cassie and Rhett, and his medical team, he’s here today to mark this important milestone.

We promised to change the law and we’re getting on with it — because no parent should have to choose between breaking the law and watching their child suffer.

So to Rhett and Cassie, it is an honour to have them here today. They should be very proud. I know they have got to know the Premier, like we have. In many respects he is a strong leader, and if we go back to when we won the election, I know within the first month the Premier was out there saying, ‘This change has to happen and it will happen’. He was quoted in the Age newspaper literally within a month of gaining office, and here we are today.

The Minister for Health has also to be congratulated. She has led a process through the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) to get here today. As the member for Melton said, this is evidence based and important legislation. Once we gained office we got our skates on — this was an election commitment — and we have done everything we could to get this legislation before the chamber as soon as possible. As I said, I congratulate the health minister. You only have to read her second‑reading speech to see how important this legislation is for families, for children. It might be cancer, it might be HIV, it might be glaucoma — medicinal cannabis has been shown and has been proven to work in ways that other traditional medicines have not been able to do.

So in some ways Victoria has led the way. We have led the commonwealth government. We see that other jurisdictions are watching closely at how we implement this scheme, and I think it is going to go a long way to putting Victoria on the international stage in many respects — as the member for Essendon said — because this bill is incredibly important. It is not only about implementing our election promise. It is about making sure that we have a 21st century health system and support for families when they need it.

Providing for the medicinal use of products derived from cannabis by establishing a scheme to allow for their supply and the treatment of all Victorians with specified conditions will go an incredibly long way to ensuring that our health system is not only one of the best in Australia but one of the best in the world. As the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice I was very pleased to see the Victorian Law Reform Commission, upon Labor coming to office, essentially work very hard to do the review and make the necessary recommendations to ensure that the scheme that we did put in place was eligible and that it will make important regulations for the manufacture and distribution of medicinal cannabis.

The VLRC was extremely thorough in its investigation. It completed extensive public consultations, which included public consultation forums, written submissions and private consultations. The commission also drew on expertise from the medical profession and heard many compelling stories from people in the community about why medicinal cannabis should be made legal. The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Medicinal Cannabis report was tabled in Parliament on 6 October 2015, and the government accepted all 42 recommendations, 2 of which were accepted in principle.

I want to put on the record, as Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, my congratulations to the VLRC for its work. It deserves thanks for the thorough and precise work it did in an incredibly timely manner, because this is legislation that essentially could not wait. I am very happy now that we essentially have the roadmap to go forward to legalise access to medicinal cannabis for Victorians in exceptional circumstances.

I want to congratulate the minister and her department, because to get to where we are today the consultation needed to be and was extensive. Paediatric neurologists at the Royal Children’s Hospital were heavily consulted and worked with the Australian Medical Association. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Victorian branch, as well as the Australian College of Nursing and the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority, were all heavily consulted and worked thoroughly through the VLRC process. We had a range of agricultural stakeholders which I know were also working with various cabinet ministers to get here today.

Finally, I want to thank all members, particularly those on the Labor side when we were in opposition who saw this issue. It would be fair to say the government of the day did not quite get it, but Labor got it. The Premier, Minister for Police, Minister for Public Transport and Gavin Jennings, a member in the Legislative Council — and a whole range of cabinet ministers — got it, and now we are delivering. It is another election promise delivered that is going to change how we practise medicine and how we deliver health care. It is going to really make Victoria a jurisdiction for the 21st century that we can be proud of. On that note, I commend the bill to the house.