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Thursday, 18 November 1976

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) . However, I understand that he did refer to my State of South Australia. I do not know where he got his information about the alleged distribution of marihuana in that State but what I can calmly do is set out the facts. Even the President of the South Australian Pharmacy Guild, as did the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) earlier in this debate, has drawn attention to the fact that the present measures being used to combat the spread of drugs in our community are not working and that those who seriously want to overcome this problem- I assume that that applies to every member in this House and the vast majority of the community- would be well advised to look at measures adopted elsewhere and seek even the introduction of more committees of inquiry in order to try to find the proper method of overcoming this very great problem.

The problem, of course, does not involve only marihuana and harder drugs. It also involves the drug alcohol and the spread of that form of drug taking in our community which is itself an increasing problem. I am proud of the fact that the South Australian Labor Government has taken an initiative in this field within the last week by announcing the setting up of a royal commission. I have no doubt that the royal commission will use the evidence which the Senate committee in recent years has gathered and I hope that it will take into account the work of the Council of Civil Liberties in South Australia and the views of the President of the Pharmacy Guild of South Australia. There is an alternative method of overcoming or at least reducing the harms of drug taking which was suggested in both those quarters: It is that drug takers should be registered and treated as people who are ill rather than as criminals and that by such registration maybe we can reduce the incidence of this harmful practice. I repudiate the sort of talk we have heard from the honourable member for Kennedy, as it has been passed on to me, to the effect that there is someone in political life in my State or elsewhere who is seeking to increase the problem. If anything, marihuana is a middleclass problem. Probably there are many more people in the middle income group suffering from it than in the lower income group but this is not something that would affect the sort of the cure I have mentioned.

As shadow Treasurer I have responsibility for one of the 3 Bills before us. I notice that the Government Whip has suggested that I was not listed to speak in this debate. I certainly was on the original list of speakers and I apologise to him if we are delaying the House. However, I assure him that I will not be too much longer. I was drawn to my feet by some of the outrageous statements, which were passed on to me, apparently made by the honourable member for Kennedy. These 3 Bills are consequential to the signing of the Papua New Guinea Trade and Commercial Relations Agreement. The Opposition supports all 3 Bills. The Agreement provides a basis for economic co-operation in the interests of both Papua New Guinea and Australia. Trade is essential to the development of both countries. Fortunately the resources of Australia and Papua New Guinea are generally complementary and provide a mutually satisfactory and non-competitive basis for trade. However, this is not entirely so.

The list of exemptions on the schedules to the Agreement under the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill 1976 is longer than would be in the interests of Papua New Guinea. Some goods which might be traded in the future are excluded from the Agreement reducing the potential value of the Agreement to Papua New Guinea. This is also contrary to the long-term interests of Australia because self-reliant development in Papua New Guinea and reduction of its dependence on Australian aid depends on expansion of Papua New Guinea s overseas markets. The Australian Government could have been considerably more generous in the negotiation of this Agreement in view of the high trade imbalance between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Such good sense would have encouraged economic development in Papua New Guinea in the long run without substantially affecting the interests of Australian industry. To the extent that there would be any cost to Australian industries, structural adjustment assistance should be made available.

The interests of the wider community of consumers would have benefited from this arrangement had it been more generous. There have been some criticisms of the Agreement in Papua New Guinea. Some honourable members might have noticed a report of what Mr John Kaputin said. However, this criticism seems to miss the point. The aim of the Agreement is to provide a stable and co-operative structure for trade between our 2 countries. In particular it ensures access to Australian markets for goods produced in Papua New Guinea. The Agreement is not designed to provide better access to Papua New Guinea for Australian goods than for those of any other country. It is simply a modest and mutually satisfactory way of encouraging trade between our 2 countries.

Australia has a unique responsibility to encourage development in Papua New Guinea. This encouragement must be completely unassertive and non-directive and must continue until at least the end of this century. It is essential that the Papua New Guinea people be entirely free to choose their own development but this does not relieve Australia of the responsibility to be a facilitating agent in that process to the extent desired by Papua New Guinea. The agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea is the essence of these 3 Bills and I merely wanted to devote myself to that aspect. I was encouraged to mention the other matter only because of the way certain honourable members emotionally and, I believe, inadvisedly used this House as a vehicle to put forward views on drugs which would have been better kept to themselves. The Opposition supports these Bills.

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