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Tuesday, 19 May 1970

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:

What requests or suggestions for legislative, or administrative action by the (a) Commonwealth, (b) Territories and (c) States were made at the April meetings in Canberra of (i) the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence and (ii) Commonwealth and State Ministers on the problem of drug abuse.

Mr Chipp (HOTHAM, VICTORIA) (Minister for Customs and Excise) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The agenda for the meetings mentioned by the honourable member include a wide variety of questions concerned wilh law enforcement and health. Included were such matters as cooperation, liaison, training, controls over the illicit movements of drugs, education, research, treatment of addicts, psychotropic substances and penalties for drug offences. Pertinent recommendations of the National Standing Control Committee, subsequently endorsed by the Meeting of Ministers, were as follows:

Legislation -

(a)   that Customs officers be made authorised officers under those provisions of Slate legislation relating lo the illegal possession of drugs;

(b)   that legislation should provide separate penalties for drug offences involving simple possession and trafficking, viz. - (0 simple possession - maximum $2,000 or two years or both; (ii) trafficking - $4,000 or ten years or both.

For the purposes of these penalties, it was agreed thai possession of certain specified quantities was to be accepted as being, prima facie, evidence of trafficking.

Administrative Matters -

It was agreed -

(a)   that State officers should attend centralised training courses to be conducted by the Department of Customs and Excise in connection with drug investigations and with control techniques associated with licit drug distribution;

(b)   that a sub-committee of the National Standing Control Committee be set up to integrate, co-ordinate, encourage and advise on education activities on drug abuse;

(c)   that the Commonwealth appoint a qualified person or persons to advise and coordinate drug education activities between the States and the Territories;

(d)   that additional research should be carried out into such matters as the causes and effects of drug abuse and use;

(e)   that the Commonwealth should make available prohibited drugs for approved research programmes. It was recognised that there was a need to evaluate research which had been carried out in other countries and to co-ordinate research programmes within Australia to avoid duplication. Furthermore, it was accepted that suggested research projects should be evaluated through the medium of the Medical Research Advisory Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. Such projects are intended to include an investigation into the facilities available for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependants.

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