December 4, 2015  |  Second Reading Speech

Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment Bill 2015

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise to talk on the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment Bill 2015. In following the member for Box Hill, it is difficult to know where to begin. He attacked the judiciary, he attacked the Sentencing Advisory Council, he attacked the Victorian Court of Appeal, which handed down its judgement on baseline sentencing. He obviously was not listening yesterday when the Attorney‑General said he was going to refer the mess to the Sentencing Advisory Council for some advice, because the member for Box Hill has already pre‑empted the outcome there, describing the council as ‘soft on crime’. He then slammed the Boulton judgement, which is a landmark judgement on community correction orders, and he wonders why he was probably the most short‑lived Attorney‑General that I have known, in lasting only four years.

The member for Box Hill has spoken about the drug ice in this chamber many times, so I would have thought he would have been very supportive of this legislation. I was a member of the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee when it inquired into the supply and use of methamphetamines, particularly ice. It produced a landmark report, arguably the best report done during the term of the previous government. Former Prime Minister Abbott and now Prime Minister Turnbull held a copy of that report in their hands, as has the chair of the national inquiry, Ken Lay. They are using that report as a basis for a national approach.

Ice is a drug that we have not seen before. During the Victorian parliamentary inquiry we learnt what it does to the brain. It triggers the release of dopamine levels to 1200 units, compared to, say, cocaine at 400 units. The high is incredible. Your serotonin levels — your mood regulator — are lowered, which is where you see the trigger in violence. It is a complex drug. I commend the Premier, who as opposition leader led on this issue from the word go.

Mr Clark — Rubbish.

Mr CARROLL — The member for Box Hill says, ‘Rubbish’. Let us go to the facts. On 3 September 2014 the committee’s two‑volume report, with its recommendations, was handed down. On that same day what did Premier Napthine do? He came into question time, chest out, and what was his big announcement? Was it combatting the crystal methamphetamine scourge? No. It was about 11 new sniffer dogs. If we compare that response to the one from Premier Andrews, we see he is reflecting world’s best practice.

The committee heard evidence from New Zealand. They call it P over there — P for ‘pure’. I can tell the member for Box Hill that in New Zealand they have halved the rates of ice use. How? They have addressed it with a whole‑of‑government approach, treating it as a health issue as well as a police and law and order issue. The New Zealand Prime Minister is at the head of the table with all leaders of government.

In opposition, the Premier said that in his first 100 days he was going to set up an ice action task force, with himself at the head of the table and with the Minister for Health, the Minister for Mental Health, the Attorney‑General and the Minister for Police, who is also the Minister for Corrections. Here we are today, and that committee continues to meet. The Premier is to be commended. He set up the task force and has put his own time and energy into it. He is taking world’s best practice from New Zealand in how to tackle ice use.

I think even opposition members would agree that they were outflanked while they were in government on how to address ice use. You only had to read some of the newspaper columns at the time, including one in the Herald Sun of 7 October 2014 by James Campbell, Matt Johnston and Anneka Smethurst. Under the headline ‘State government in turmoil over Labor mole’s policy leaks’, the member for Malvern was criticised because some of his policies were seen to have been leaked.

Labor was at the forefront of this issue. Today Labor has introduced this important legislation, which is going to go a long way. I can recall throughout the parliamentary inquiry process the work that was going on right around the regions. Recently I was in Mildura for the Aboriginal Justice Forum, and it was a critical time up there. Those involved are to be commended on the work they have been doing in Mildura. The member for Mildura, in an article in the Sunraysia Daily of 14 November headed ‘Crisp backs “severe” new penalties for ice dealers’, is reported as having said:

Mr Crisp said the judicial powers were an important part of the ‘three‑pronged approach’ required to tackle the ice scourge.

It is very important legislation. This government is keeping its promise to protect our kids and tighten the net around drug dealers and manufacturers by introducing seven new drug offences. We already have tough new laws. We want to make sure that it is even harder for ice dealers, particularly when they are peddling their misery around school zones.

In March a Sentencing Advisory Council report found that the most common drug trafficked in commercial quantities in Victoria in the last five years was crystal methamphetamine. Ice is ruining lives. This is a government that has engaged with the community sector through the Premier’s ice action task force. Importantly, though, there is money on the table, with almost $50 million going to rehabilitation, tougher support for the peddlers of this misery but also support for families with a new 1800 advice line.

One thing that came through in our inquiry was that grandparents are raising their kids’ kids. It is a more common phenomenon than you can imagine. When both parents are hooked on the drug crystal methamphetamine, it is their parents who are raising their grandkids. Generations apart, they came to us regularly with a cry for help because essentially the kids are digital natives being raised by their grandparents.

The Premier and all ministers around the ice action task force are very committed to doing what they can. Unlike the previous government that just sort of announced 11 new sniffer dogs, this government is very committed to working through the report that was handed down to see what other measures we need to take. The Drug Court in Dandenong has been an outstanding success. If you look at some of the reports, you will see that it pays for itself. For every dollar invested in it, it returns some $5 to the community. In a sense I think we would all like to see a Drug Court in our electorates, but it is about trying to take the best elements of the Drug Court, in particular the drug treatment orders, and see how they can be spread right through the judicial system. The court integrated services program is another area in which we are looking to make a very big expansion and inroads.

We have done a lot on drugs, but it is very important that we do even more. There is $45.5 million to reduce the supply and demand and effects of the drug ice. Since the change in Prime Minister there has been a different rhetoric coming out of Canberra on the issue of crystal methamphetamine. Once upon a time it was all about the police, but with Prime Minister Turnbull we are seeing a different sound bite coming out. He sees it as a health issue as much as anything else.

I commend the Attorney‑General on this legislation. He did a lot of work in opposition in crafting and writing Labor’s policy. He has worked with Victoria Police, and he has worked very hard to ensure that these new offences are exactly what we need. One thing that came through our inquiry was that there is a gap in the law when it comes to dealing with crystal methamphetamine and getting close to kids. We have accepted the opposition’s amendment to increase the size of the buffer zones. It is a worthwhile amendment, making it consistent with South Australian law. The proposed amendment is a good amendment, and it is totally accepted on this side of the house.

Importantly, though, the ice action task force is going to continue to meet because we know we need to be vigilant. If we are to follow the New Zealand lead where we see a halving in the rate of crystal methamphetamine use, it is going to require a whole‑of‑government approach and incredible vigilance at the rehabilitation level. One area on which I think both sides could agree is the importance of rehabilitation. One thing about the drug ice that came out of the inquiry is that it is not a simple detox process. It is making sure that the psychological help is there and that the rehab beds are there to ensure that the users get the support and essentially the advice they need about what led them to the drug. Not everyone wakes up and just wants to become a drug user. Often there is a lot of trauma, particularly in the Indigenous community.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is at the table. She has seen firsthand the combination of polydrug use and alcohol associated with crystal methamphetamine and what that does. Having a culturally sensitive approach to rehabilitation is also very important.

I commend the bill. I commend the Minister for Police and Minister for Corrections, and I commend the Attorney‑General on this legislation.