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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7158

Medicinal Marijuana


Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:34): My question is for the minister representing the Prime Minister, Minister Abetz: I refer to comments made by the Prime Minister to the broadcaster Alan Jones on 17 September this year where he stated his support for the medicinal use of cannabis. The Prime Minister wrote:

I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis, just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates.

If a drug is needed for a valid medicinal purpose though and is being administrated safely, there should be no question of its legality.

Given the Prime Minister's support for medicinal cannabis, will the government be introducing or will it support legislation that allows for its safe administration?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:34): I am aware of the Prime Minister's statement in relation to that issue. As I said, the Prime Minister did say words to the effect—and I am more than happy to stand corrected and I will seek further information from the Prime Minister's Office—and he couched the terms: if it is good for medicinal purposes, then he would be willing to consider and support. I think the question therefore is: has the medical community coming to a landing in relation to this issue? If the Prime Minister has anything further that he might want to add to the answer I have just given, I will come back to the senator with that further information.


Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:35): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Prime Minister also told Alan Jones:

My basic contention is that something that has been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction shouldn't need to be tested again here.

Given that there are many clinical trials that demonstrate the benefits of medicinal cannabis in a specific number of medical conditions, do you agree that there are no reasons to delay making medicinal cannabis available?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:36): Can I say that I am absolutely delighted to learn that Senator Di Natale is such an avid listener to the Jones radio program and I would commend it to other senators too. I hope Senator Di Natale's interest is maintained.

Whether or not there may be other reasons that mitigate against its use, I don't know. I will not seek to, without any briefing on this matter, provide an answer in relation to that. I will give the Prime Minister the benefit of Senator Di Natale's question and see if there is anything further that the Prime Minister might seek to add.


Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:37): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Thank you, Minister, I appreciate the answer. I would just say that there are many people like Lucy Haslam and her desperately ill son, Dan, along with many thousands of others who use medicinal cannabis where other treatments have failed. The Prime Minister did say to Ms Haslam, 'I doubt the Haslams need a meeting; they need their problem addressed.' How long will they have to wait to have their problem addressed?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:37): As the senator would realise, standing orders do provide that one should not refer to specific cases if it can be avoided at all. I think this is a clear example why. That is, in the standing orders of the Senate in relation to questions, commenting on individual cases is always fraught with great difficulty without knowing all the background. Therefore, I will not be giving any prognosis or commentary in relation to the particular matter to which the senator refers.