Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2434

Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) - I had not intended to speak in this debate and would not have done so had it not been for some things which were said last night by Senator Carrick. In the course of his speech on this Bill he said:

Do they propose -

Referring to the Parliamentary Labor Party - in caucus to impose a total ban on their Party members who publicly and with utter irresponsibility, as members of the Australian Labor Party, advocate the legalisation of marihuana?

He then referred to: . . a very vocal and uncontradicted section of the Opposition, being what I would call wantonly irresponsible, advocates to the public and particularly to the young people that they should go ahead and smoke marihuana.

Later he said:

I ask whether there have been numerous statements by Dr Cass and other members of the Labor Party advocating the legalisation of marihuana. Is the Labor Party, consistent with its policy, willing tonight to reject those statements and will the Labor Party senators condemn Dr Cass?

He asks further:

Is .it not a fact that Dr Cass and Senator Wheeldon, have, unimpeded, advocated the smoking of marihuana and that no member of the Labor Party has condemned such advocacy as being antipathetic to the policy which the Opposition now puts forward?

Mistakenly I would have expected better from Senator Carrick than what he said last night. I would not have thought this was the sort of depth to which he would descend in political debate. I can speak for myself and, I believe, for Dr Cass in saying that neither of us has ever advocated the smoking of marihuana to anybody and certainly not, as Senator Carrick said, particularly to young people. What Dr Cass and 1 have both said is that penal provisions should not be imposed on people who use marihuana. This is totally different from saying that one is advocating the commission of- an action. I am not in favour of penal provisions being imposed on people who are members of the Liberal Party but that does not mean that I am advocating that people should join the Liberal Party. This distortion is part of a thoroughly dishonest campaign which will be carried out during the forthcoming election campaign. I am disappointed that Senator Carrick has lent his name to it.

I thought he would have understood that amongst a number of people who are concerned about the problem of drug addiction there is genuine disagreement about whether the imposition of penal provisions and criminal sanctions is the way to deal with the problem of drugs. I should have thought that this was generally accepted. Certainly it was accepted as far as the members of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug abuse were concerned - Senator Marriott and the other members of the Committee - and certainly this sort of comment, this sort of distortion, was not made by any members of the Committee in the debate. It was recognised that there was room for genuine disagreement on whether the legalisation of some of the drugs or the continuance of criminal sanctions was the proper way to deal with the problem. I do not believe that the way to deal with this problem is to say quite dishonestly that someone has advocated the smoking of marihuana when what he has said is that it should not be illegal. I notice that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) is shaking his head, but clearly Senator Carrick said:

Is it not a fact that Dr Cass and Senator Wheeldon have, unimpeded, advocated the smoking of marihuana . . .

Senator Greenwood - But you have denied that. I thought Senator Carrick was posing it on the basis of what has happened.

Senator WHEELDON - No, he was not asking a question. It might have been posed interrogatively, but certainly the clear statement by Senator Carrick was that we had advocated the smoking of marihuana. The honourable senator said: . . a very vocal and uncontradicted section of the Opposition, being what I would call wantonly irresponsible, advocates to the public and particularly to the young people that they should go ahead and smoke marihuana.

I have never heard Dr Cass or any other member of the Australian Labor Party advocate to anybody, nor have 1 advocated, that they should go ahead and smoke marihuana. If I were asked I would advocate to young people or to anybody else that they should not smoke marihuana, in the same way as I would advocate that they should not drink alcohol. Because one says that something should not be illegal one should not be accused of advocating that it is a course that should be followed.

I warn Senator Carrick that if he wants to run an election campaign by making accusations of this kind we will be ready for him. I believe that a sufficient number of people in this country will not allow themselves to be misled by this kind of personal attack on the integrity of people who have tried to make a contribution by taking a stand which happens to be unpopular. It is an unpopular stand. I believe that the people of Australia deserve better from people like Senator Carrick than a suggestion that they should join an hysterical claque. He seeks to stir up emotion on completely erroneous grounds against people who. knowing that they will be unpopular, honestly have tried to make a contribution on an issue. They know, as Dr Cass especially does, that they could be placing their political careers in jeopardy through taking up a position which, although it is unpopular, they believe to be in the best interests of the country.

I believe that the matter of marihuana was raised by Senator Carrick, not because he wanted to make any useful contribution to the debate but because he wanted to smear some members of the Labor Party. However, as it has been raised, the only other comment I make is that a number of people would find it strange to hear so much talk about liberty and what an infringement on liberty it is to place inhibitions on the advertising of one drug - nicotine - which is known to be dangerous and at the same time hear the contention that there should be a total prohibition, including the imposition of penal sanctions, on the possession of marihuana - not because marituana has been proved to be dangerous but because it has not been proved not to be dangerous. This is an inconsistency which I think would occur to a number of people. I do not intend to labour the point. I would not have come into the debate if it had not been for what Senator Carrick said yesterday.

Suggest corrections