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Wednesday, 8 December 1971
Page: 4288

Mr BONNETT (Herbert) - This Bill relates to a very important subject. I listened with interest to the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). Unfortunately 1 was quite at loss at one stage of his speech to understand what he meant regarding the penalties outlined in this Bill. I believe that one of the most positive ways in which to destroy a country is to undermine the mental and physical health of its youth. One could classify drug taking as a declaration of war on a country and I believe that the only way to fight such a problem is to declare, war against it

I was interested in reading the statistics which are available on the . penalties imposed at the moment in this field. I do not know whether the honourable member for Oxley has seen these statistics. The inadequacy of the penalties imposed rather intrigued me. For instance, one fellow was fined $800 for being in possession of heroin, despite the fact that he had previous convictions for drug trafficking. An $800 fine was imposed for the possession of LSD tablets, despite evidence being given of a previous conviction for drug trafficking. A fine of $600 was imposed for possession of hashish, despite 5 separate attempts being made by the person fined to import drugs. He will certainly have another go at it. For the importation of cannabis a $500 fine was imposed. The person fined was allowed to pay off the fine at $10 a week. For the importation of cannabis one person was gaoled for 3} years, despite evidence being given of large scale importations of other drugs. Another chap was released on a bond for drug trafficking. Another one was fined $200 for importing.

The penalties imposed are very lenient indeed compared with the rewards which can be gained from drug trafficking. Let us have a look at the money these people can get for trafficking and dealing in drugs. One pound of marihuana can be purchased overseas at a cost of $10. If it were imported here it would retail at $1,000. A dose unit of LSD which is manufactured for 20c and sold wholesale for 50c retails at from $8 to $12. I repeat that the original cost of a dose unit is 20c. A pound of heroin which is purchased for $3,000 overseas would sell wholesale in Australia for $20,000. By adding milk, sugar and caffeine to it one can double the quantity and get 2 Ito of heroin. That 2 lb of heroin could be sold in doses at a net profit of approximately $100,000. The fines imposed matter nothing because (he offenders merely laugh at them and put their hands in their pockets and pay those fines before they leave the court. I believe that the people who do traffic in these drugs deserve a much harsher penalty than that prescribed for at the moment.

I draw a definite distinction between the pedlars and the users. I wholeheartedly agree with the statement of the honourable member for Oxley that the users definitely need medical rehabilitation. But there is no problem as the Government recognises this fact. However, I would draw a definite line of distinction between a user and a pedlar or a user-pedlar. The honourable member for Oxley mentioned alcohol and tobacco. There is a difference between addiction to alcohol and tobacco and addiction to drugs. The difference is that the alcoholic or the heavy user of tobacco does not try to induce other people to join him. One will often find the alcoholic on his own in a corner. 1 am talking about the real alcoholic - the cove who is really gone. You will find that that fellow is a loner. Of course, the heavy smoker does not run around trying to induce other people to start smoking simply because he smokes. A drug pedlar is always on the job of inducing others to use the particular drug he peddles and so become dependent, which means another customer for him and consequently more money in his pocket. I believe that there is a distinct difference between the user of alcohol and tobacco and the drug pedlar in this respect. I know that the Minister and his Department have a tremendous problem with the detection of drugs. Our open coastline makes smuggling or the importation of drugs a lot easier than perhaps in other countries; it is comparatively easy. Therefore to my mind we must make the penalties harsher for the offenders we catch. I forget the percentage of possible drug imports that are detected. If I remember rightly it is about 15 per cent. That is not good. We must deter people from illegally importing drugs. They are making huge profits by trying to get this stuff into Australia, and we must try to catch them somewhere along the line.

The honourable member for Oxley placed emphasis on research. This is ideal, but I think there is a definite and comparative need for education and detection as well as research. If I remember rightly, the honourable member for Oxley placed research first in order of priority, but I claim there is a comparative need for detection and education as well. I will not disagree with the honourable member's statement that the narcotic problem is developing. My word, it is developing. It is developing to a stage where we have to watch it very closely. He mentioned the problem in America and in England and how the authorities in those countries treat the people involved differently. The drug problem is developing to the stage where because of Australia's open coastline, the comparative ease of smuggling drugs into Australia and the huge profits that can be made on this stuff, people from all walks of life are being attracted to dealing in drugs. New and devious techniques arc being devised for distributing the stuff, and consequently this problem will develop further, lt is OK to have the accent on research - I am all for it - but as I say, there is a comparative need for detection and education to offset the development of this problem. I feel also that there is a constant need for the people who arc engaged in the detection of drugs to co-operate with other countries which have similar problems and at intervals during a year, say, to visit these other countries and study their technique or, vice versa, have other people come to us. But I feel there should be complete co-operation between other countries and ourselves on the detection of drugs.

The honourable member for Oxley stated that he had reservations about marihuana. So have I. I have read that for many years countries such as England have been studying this problem to find out whether there are any ill effects from marihuana and whether it is addictive, but nobody has yet come up with anything positive. I take notice of the people from the World Health Organisation who are engaged in this research and who have said that they too are not sure. If they are not sure of the effects of marihuana - this drug, if it be a drug - I too have reservations about it. Until something definite about the effects of marihuana comes up and is published I too, as does the honourable member for Oxley, have reservations about its use. 1 read about 12 months ago in the 'Australian' newspaper, I think it was, that the 5 medical members on the Opposition side had openly stated that there were no ill effects from marihuana and that they would legalise the use of it if they had their choice. Having not read about definite results of any research that has been done into this weed, I was amazed that they could be so definite. Again I read in the Press recently that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) said that he had used marihuana and that he knows doctors who have used it. I do not know where the honourable member gets the marihuana from - whether he grows it himself, whether he purchases it or whether he has it given to him. But it is still illegal to use marihuana. I would like to ask him later where he gets it. I cannot see how these members of the Opposition can be so definite when the research that has been going on for many years in the countries 1 mentioned has not produced anything definite. So I will reserve my judgment on marihuana until something definite is published.

The honourable member for Oxley stated also that the approach of penalising people for drug offences has failed in America. Frankly I do not know how he can be so definite about that when we do not know the results of what would have happened had they not been penalised. I have no argument with him when he says that the user needs medical treatment and medical rehabilitation. He has stated that the penalising has failed. I do not see how he can be so definite. As I said, a lot of money is being made by people in all walks of life from drugs. It is interesting to read the statistics of court cases over the last 5 years, to see what these people do for a normal occupation and to see the increase in the incidence of drug offences. Unlike the honourable member for Oxley, who has moved this amendment, I want harsher penalties.

A study of the seizures of drugs that have been made over the last 5 years indicates that these are necessary. There has been a marked decrease of the seizure of opium in the last 5 years but there has been a marked increase in the seizure of heroin and a tremendous increase in the seizure of cannabis. Thousands and thousands of pounds have been seized. There has been a tremendous increase in the seizure of LSD and other drugs such as morphine and cocaine over the last 5 years. 1 feel that the penalties in the Bill and as outlined by the Minister in his second reading speech are definitely not harsh enough. While I agree with the Opposition statement that the users need treatment, I cannot vote for the amendment because, as I have stated, the penalties as 1 read them in the Bill are still not harsh enough for these characters who would undermine the health, both physical and mental, of the youth of our country.

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