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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1117

Senator MULVIHILL (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise and I refer to recent Press reports on the gaoling of 2 persons for 8 years for importing a substantial quantity of heroin into this country. As this seems a heavy sentence, is it a fact that the courts now have a different evaluation of such crimes or was the sentence a result of other factors of which we are not aware?

Senator MURPHY -The importation and distribution of heroin are, of course, extremely serious offences. I can inform the Senate that the courts are starting to take a more serious view of them than they did. I have given directions very recently, and they were followed in the case to which the honourable senator refers, that where a case involves a large quantity of heroin, as did this one where I think the quantity was a pound and a quarter- I am given to understand that this is enough for 17,000 doses- the case should be treated extremely seriously by the Commonwealth. I have instructed that even on a plea of guilty the Crown should be represented by senior counsel, or at least extremely experienced counsel, and that evidence should in appropriate cases, of which this was one, be put before the court to inform it of the dangers of heroin and of the prevalence of such crimes. In this case a pharmacologist of repute was called and also an expert witness on the prevalence of the crime in the community.

I think the community generally will be pleased to see that, along with perhaps a more sensible attitude towards marihuana, equally a more sensible attitude is being taken by the courts in dealing with the hard drugs by regarding such offences as extremely serious crimes against the community. If I may have the indulgence of the Senate, I may say that I am considering amendments to the legislation which would very much increase the penalties for hard drug offences. We know that views differ on the other drugs but I tend to the view that it is ridiculous to have the same range of penalties for marihuana as for the extremely hard drugs. I think this has helped to confuse the position in the minds of the community and especially the young people who ought to have brought home to them what a vast difference there is between the 2 types of drugs. I see no reason why the penalties for, say, heroin in the worst cases should not be up to 25 years, with very much heavier financial penalties -

Senator Greenwood - What do they get for trafficking, though?

Senator MURPHY -I am talking about the worst cases and about the forfeiture of all assets of those who are party to trafficking in the hardest of drugs.

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