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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3042


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford) (Smith) - The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. The Bill contains a number of clauses but the consequential clause relates to the adoption of the Brussels definition of commercial value and the Opposition accepts that proposition. The biggest problem in respect of the Brussels definition always has been to indicate that the value ought to be the value placed on the goods or appliances or whatever it may be in the country of origin. There have been some circumventions in the past with a country of origin moving goods into another country with discount, that then affecting the question of the documentation price here. Amendments are proposed also to give greater flexibility to regulations governing the granting, operation and transfer of licences.

Clause 7 provides a restructuring of provisions setting out the general requirements in relation to exports to provide a basis for eliminating the need for export licences under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations by upgrading the export entry as a sole control document The other important matters deal with drug trafficking offences and the maximum penalties which can be provided.

At the moment the issue of drug addiction is the most important issue in Australia. It is probably true, as the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare said recently, that it is not just limited to narcotics and amphetamines. It also includes alcohol and tobacco. We must put them in the right context. Nevertheless, the results are quite serious, no matter what drug we look at. They affect the health of people, particularly young people. Whilst we cannot pass laws to protect people from themselves, it is important to try to protect people from others. The purpose of this Bill is to impose very heavy penalties. The Opposition will not say any more about that aspect because the Government feels that that is the position. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has indicated that the national Parliament is interested, as it should be, in the question of drugs and their effect on Australia. Heroin, of course, is imported and therefore one would think that the Parliament, as a federal organisation, could prevent its importation. Of course, that is extremely difficult. In fact we are not preventing it because there are so many points of entry. It is well known, for example, that the use of heroin is prevented in Japan because the penalties are so great and the treatment is so harsh that people do not use it. They use other drugs, which is of great concern to the Japanese authorities. It follows I suppose, that because of the cessation of the hostilities in Vietnam, and certainly because Japan has prevented the importation of heroin, Australia has become the soft market, the easy market to penetrate. It is happening accordingly.

The Opposition was anxious, when the Prime Minister set out the terms of reference of the Royal Commission into drugs, to see those terms extended to include criminal conduct arising from the use of narcotics and amphetaminesthat would include people peddling those drugs and making enormous amounts of money- and, most particularly, the treatment of offenders. The Opposition suggested at the time that those matters be considered because in many cases the unfortunate offender also is a peddler. He lives off the proceeds of peddling and keeps up the money supply for the person, in many cases an international criminal, who can provide the drugs and guarantee their penetration. Whilst we cannot get to all these people, the world is concerned because so many young people are affected. In this nation at the present time we have a false sense of security, believing that we are doing all we can to make penalties severe. We are punishing people with gaol sentences and big monetary penalties. Up to a point this applies to people who are not really affected or addicted but who are just interested in the money. They are the people who are preying on the system. They are the ones whom we would not mind going to gaol and being dealt with rather severely but for the unfortunate addict it is no solution; that is the other point. This has to be looked at as a problem in society in the same way as alcoholism and other problems are regarded. There has to be some understanding of how best we can help these people. They need support and they need treatment. Incarceration is not the solution.

I am not going to delay the House, but every member who has a penitentiary in his electorate knows that imprisonment does not solve many of the problems of mankind. It does have some value in the sense perhaps of being a deterrent but in the main it does not do anything like what the public thinks it can do. It does not protect the public against crime. It does not rehabilitate offenders. I am referring to offenders guilty of what one could call serious crime such as bodily injury, threatened violence and matters of that nature. Drug offences are a different type of offence. It is more a self-inflicted wound type of offence. We have to look at the minds of the people to ascertain the problems that are upsetting them, how best they can enjoy their life and what are the worries and pressures that have caused them to become so addicted. In every case it will be found that there is a reason. It is probably due to some personality problem, the home environment or some other reason. The drug problem affects young people particularly. It is interesting to note that most people who are affected are under 23 years of age, so there is this identifiable factor of immaturity, if I can put it that way.

The experience of living is a great thing and perhaps the older we get the more we are cushioned against the things that can destroy us. It is important now that we have legislation of this type not just to say: 'Look, we have got it covered because the penalties are pretty substantial'. This legislation provides penalties of up to $100,000 or imprisonment up to 25 years or both. Those are really tremendous penalties, but will they solve anything? The answer is: 'Not really'. It might be a great thing to catch some pedlar who has caused so much damage, but in supporting this Bui I would like the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) to use his good offices with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in these dying moments of the Parliament, and the Government, to say that the Government will alter the terms of reference of the royal commission to guarantee that we do not get a really intelligent appraisal of the situation. I think the Senate Committee report was a very good one. It looked at the problem probably with some medical expertise as well. We have to treat the patient. We have to get a solution and it can be done but it does need involvement with the community. This means that people will have to take an interest in each other. There is too much isolation in Australia today. Australians are too divided. They are isolated against each other. We have to encourage a better atmosphere. Perhaps we should start in the schools where the teachers and children are so involved and so interested in the future. The high pressures of society, the difficulties of unemployment and all these sorts of matters go towards causing this problem and it cannot be solved merely with the sort of penalties that are set out in this legislation. We support the Bill.







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