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Wednesday, 8 December 1971
Page: 4301

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - 1 think that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) was, to say the least, a little unfair at the end of his speech when he attacked the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). If there is anyone in Australia who is genuinely concerned about the effects of the drug problem upon Australia as a nation, it is the Minister for Customs and Excise. I grant to the honourable member for Maribyrnong the right to hold a view as to whether Australia is approaching the drug problem in the correct manner, but I repeat: It was unfair for the honourable member to attack the Minister in such strong language.

This is not the first occasion on which I have spoken on this subject in this Parliament. While doing some research I found that nearly 3 years ago, on 27th March 1969, I made a speech in which I drew the attention of the House to what

I regarded as the inadequate penalties for drug offences pertaining in Australia. I made certain comparisons between Australia and the United States of America. Having read what I said at that time, I suppose that my views have moderated slightly. I have now spent 2 months in the United States and listened to various points of view expressed as to the danger of drugs. 1 recall living in San Francisco for 4 days with a number of young people, a great percentage of whom were actually smoking pot and a number of whom were on the harder drugs. I was fortunate in having witnessed the situation and having talked to these young people. Today too many people, not only in this Parliament but all over Australia, denounce drug taking without ever having the advantage of even knowing somebody who had partaken of some form of drug. At the time when I spoke in this Parliament in 1969 I made known my view, that whilst I recognised that each individual had the right to decide his own destiny, in an unqualified manner I was opposed completely to drug pedlars, and that philosophy still holds. I pointed out then - and it is interesting to recall it to the House - that the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), either late in 1968 or early in 1969 directed that a conference to discuss drug and narcotic taking should be convened. When we look back on history the former Prime Minister will be given credit for his contribution in this, direction at a time when others were not taking much notice of what was happening.

The Australian Labor Party has moved an amendment this afternoon. I believe that in an enlightened approach to this subject one really, cannot condemn the Opposition for its suggestion that certain of the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Aouse should be followed. I could not reject the submission that more treatment should be made available to people and, to use the word of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who expressed the views of a country man, are 'hooked'. But I do believe that this is definitely the responsibility of the States. The introduction of this legislation has been necessitated because of the attitudes of some of the magistrates and judges who have handled various drug cases in the past. I wonder whether or not various State governments - perhaps some members of the Parliament may be able to give a run down on exactly what the State governments have done in this field - look at this as a matter which does not hold many votes and therefore they let the ball pass through to the keeper. They will wait until the day when there are so many addicts around and a great public outcry arises for the establishment of certain hospitals and centres at which these people can be cared for and, if possible, restored to health. I do make an earnest plea to the various State governments. I may be accused of being a centralist but they should give more consideration to the treatment aspect and make more opportunities available to those who are seeking help.

I imagine that IS years ago the number of drug addicts or people who were accustomed to taking drugs in Australia was but a handful. Unfortunately today the world is becoming smaller because of faster transport. Australia is becoming more exposed to worldly attitudes. The drug problem is growing faster and faster. It is high time that we introduced legislation to counter those people who have been able to slip through the net because of the weakness of our legislation.

The House is aware that I have expressed great and constant opposition to the extension of the rights of police forces, etc.. to tap telephones on all but the most important occasions. I have no hesitation in stating that when it comes to the apprehension of drug traffickers and the elusive Mr Big, who was mentioned by the honourable member for Kennedy, I would be prepared to yield my stand on telephone tapping. I qualify that statement by saying that permission to eavesdrop on telephone conversations should be granted only by the Attorney-General, the Comptroller-General of Customs and Excise or the Minister for Customs and Excise. I regard drug trafficking as a serious enough subject to cause me to yield on that point. No doubt exists that there are people in this world who are growing fat and rich because they are taking advantage of this weakness of certain sections of the population. I believe that any opportunity to catch and to imprison these people should be availed of. The honourable member for Kennedy proposed that they should be put to death. Some people may regard that as being too kind. Perhaps life imprisonment might be a better proposition.

I draw to the attention of the House the fact that in 1965 in the United States of America the Johnson Administration amended the Drug Abuse Control Amendments. A section was inserted which provided that the sale, barter, exchange, giving away or transfer of any narcotic drug or marihuana to a person under 18 years of age would attract a penalty of imprisonment of not less than 10 years and not more than 40 years, and in addition a fine of not more than $20,000 might be imposed. This legislation talks in terms of a penalty of $2,000 and $4,000 depending on the seriousness as related to the quantities of drugs carried at the time of apprehension. I wonder wonder whether we in this enlightened age are going as far as we could. I do not think that too much can be done to stop those people who are using the weaknesses of other people to fill their pockets. There is the addict who is caught on the drug and there is the other person who is out to make addicts and to build up his business so that he grows wealthier. The latter has no concern for individuals. His only concern is for himself. I do not believe that we can do too much to apprehend a person of this type.

The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) made some comparisons earlier which showed that in the United Kingdom there was one addict to every 18,500 persons while in the United States there was one addict to every 700 to 1,000 persons. Surely no-one can jump to the conclusion that, because the United States has harsh laws, this level of addiction is the direct result. I think that it is unfair or impractical to compare that situation to that in Australia. The situation in the United States is entirely different from that in the United Kingdom. I hold the attitude of society in Australia to be more akin to that of society in the United States than of society in the United Kingdom.

We are doing the right thing in nipping this problem in the bud. So much of the U.S. drug supply is grown in the fields of Mexico and is smuggled into the United

States. Australia has been fortunate in the past. But I am worried because the Minister for Customs and Excise stated that only 15 per cent of all drugs actually smuggled into Australia are confiscated by bis Department. Even if the world average confiscation of drugs is 10 per cent, I think that Australia should be doing better. If I belonged to any force, be it a customs or a police force, I do not think that I would be overly proud if the level of success was that only 15 per cent of all drugs smuggled into Australia were confiscated.

If the Minister considers this problem to be of such grave consequence as he has suggested - I am sure that he does - and ff it is as serious as members on this side of the House in particular believe it to be, it is time we realised that it does not matter how much we spend on building up and training our customs staff if we do not adopt sterner measures to confiscate drugs. I say to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), who is at the table, that it is about time we woke up to ourselves in relation to our slipshod handling of overseas visitors to Australia. I have been in and out of this country on a number of occasions. I have watched the way in which customs officers operate. It is a wonder that 15 per cent of smuggled drugs are confiscated when we consider the way in which our customs men handle people. The policies that we have adopted mean that tourists from some overseas countries suffered 2 minutes inconvenience at the customs gate before they are passed through customs. A selective system is applied under which, one in, say, every 6 is checked.

I recall very clearly an incident which occurred while I was travelling from Acapulco to San Antonio. It was known that T was a member of the Australian Parliament. I had the green passport. The person who checked me said: ' I am sorry, sir, but it happens to everyone'. T said: That is fair enough'. A very careful examination was made of my possessions. The point I am making is that every person who came in before or after me was subjected to the same very close scrutiny. It is about time we took off the gloves at the gates to Australia. It is about time we started taking this problem seriously. Not too long ago we had the case of a diplo mat from an African country being given his marching orders from this country because he was guilty of bringing in a great swag of a particular drug. Because a person is a diplomat nobody touches him. I appreciate that diplomats are closely screened in the early days but, as they are no different to anybody else, why should they receive preferential treatment? They are no different to members of Parliament and they are no different to the ordinary John Citizen. They are people the same as everyone else. Just as some people have a weakness to succumb to the opportunity to make easy money, so do certain diplomats. I am not saying that diplomats are responsible for the importation of all the illegal drugs which are coming into this country, but I do not believe that anyone should be exempted from scrutiny because of the position which he holds. Drug addiction is the most vile form of human misery which can be inflicted upon any person. I have read articles recently about heroin being mixed in with marihuana in order to hook tha user of marihuana on heroin without them knowing that they are on heroin. I despise this practice. 1 remind the House that the Opposition has not appeared in good light in recent months as a political party. While I was in the United States of America I heard people of far greater authority than any member of the Opposition expressing their uncertainty as to the long term effects of marihuana. Tt is unfortunate that in the last couple of years we have seen a division in the attitude of the Opposition and tha Government in this Parliament to the drug problem. The Australian Labor Party has been presenting itself as the enlightened political party and the party that knows all the answers to questions about drugs while the Government Parties have been ultraconservative in their approach.

Dr Klugman - Arc you people still sticking to alcohol?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Tha honourable member is on another trip. We are told that the ultra-conservatives sit on this side of the chamber and the radicals sit on the other side of the chamber. I believe that the Australian Labor Party has been totally irresponsible in its actions. I am all in favour of a proper examination of the available information, but I do not think that some of the comments which have been made by members of the Opposition make it any easier for parents to bring up their children to believe that certain things are good while others are not. I conclude by saying to the Opposition that if it ever wants to govern this country it will have to change a lot of its ideas because the way in which it behaves in opposition at present does not give the Australian electorate great hope as to how it will behave and how responsible it will be in government.

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