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Thursday, 18 November 1976
Page: 2890

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) -Obviously nobody in the House would defend drug trafficking. None of us have really come up with any sort of intelligent suggestion of what ought to be done. We have discussed increasing punishments, attacked the traffickers, made highly emotional statements and alleged all kinds of connections between one thing and another. These attitudes will not solve the problem. I am not sure that the problem can be solved. In many ways people get hooked on these drugs as an alternative to other things. These are the people who cannot face up to the pressures of society. Some people say that this is due to modern living, although it was going on for a long time before the alleged pressures of modern life came to the fore. People m some countries are addicted to some of these drugs and there seems to be very little pressure on them. I refer to subsistence farmers living in the countryside. We just do not know what the specific pressures are.

I do not want to get into any lengthy argument, but I would like to raise a couple of points. Firstly, it is obvious that the present laws in the sense of preventing addiction are not working. Secondly, we do not really know why people become addicted. The South Australian Government, under Premier Don Dunstan, has I think during the last week or two set up a royal commission to have a proper look at the drug situation in Australia. As far as I know there has been no royal commission previously on this matter. There have been what would correspond to our royal commissions in the United States. I think there was something called the President's commission of inquiry. There was certainly a royal commission in the United Kingdom. I am not sure that those inquiries have come up with anything particularly brilliant. We have to keep on trying. We have nothing to lose, so to speak, by having another commission and listening to people who think they have some sort of solution.

I came into this debate rather unexpectedly after listening to the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), who, I think, in all good faith, adds to the problem by glamourising- he in no way supports drug trafficking- and emphasising the amount of money involved. In a couple of sentences he spoke about a $250,000 haul, a $ 1 m haul, and a $3m haul. I do not believe that sort of money is really involved in this activity in Australia. Even if it is we should not talk about it as it attracts people. Let us be perfectly candid about people's attitudes to crime and money in this society and probably in most societies. A significant number would be prepared to do anything if they are offered enough money.

Mr Abel - That is why the penalties have to be increased.

Dr KLUGMAN - People are prepared to murder others allegedly for $5,000 or $10,000. We will not do anything more to drug pedlars or to people involved in drug traffic than we do to murderers. Obviously that is not the solution. As I have said before, we have to stop the Press, the media, parliamentarians and other people who sometimes like to get cheap publicity by speaking of the large amounts of money involved. Some people, such as reverends, make their speeches on Sundays- that is the time when reverends make most speeches anywayprobably because less news is available for Monday morning newspapers and Sunday night radio and television. The amounts of money involved are fictitious. I have asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) who is in charge of this legislation questions on this matter.

If, when a person was being prosecuted for bringing heroin into the country or for having drugs for the purpose of sale and prosecutors said that 10 grams or 40 grams were involved the story would not get a headline. Quite often witnesses talk about $500,000 or $lm worth of drugs, the implication being that anyone who gets into that sort of racket can make a colossal amount of money and that if he gets away with it once he will never have to do it again. Let us face it, many people, if they thought that with one highly immoral and criminal action they could make that sort of money, would be tempted to have a try, especially when it is remembered that only a small percentage of criminals get caught. The odds are pretty good. People will invest at much shorter odds to win much less money at race courses.

I appeal to the Minister to instruct his departmental prosecutors and to Ministers in charge of State police forces to instruct their officers not to go along to court stressing the huge amounts of money involved. Evidence should just be given of the actual quantity of drugs involved. After all, the value is fairly fictitious. Obviously it must vary from week to week and month to month. Maybe demand is fairly steady- possibly it is increasing- but obviously supply must vary from time to time. I have never been involved in this activity, obviously, but it seems reasonable to me that the value that is placed on a haul by the police or the customs agents is a fairly arbitrary figure. It is a figure which is calculated on the basis of the whole amount being sold at top retail price.

I have not been in court when one of these prosecutions has taken place. I do not know whether the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) is coming into this debate. He may be aware of what happens in the courts and whether there is any cross-examination by counsel for the defence when the prosecution states that large amounts of money are involved. I do not know whether such amounts are ever questioned, and it is pointed out that really only a much smaller amount is involved. My objection is not to try to protect the people who have been prosecuted. My aim is to deglamourise this business.

Let us face it: Whether we are talking about film stars, people who conduct radio sessions or people who are involved in crime, our society and our news media love to exaggerate the amount of money involved. They talk about $100,000 and $200,000 contracts for radio and television personalities. Just as such talk attracts people to the entertainment profession, which is an honourable one, it will also attract other sorts of people to the drug trade if they see headlines about the huge amounts of money involved. There is no need for it. It is not necessary for any other purpose than to obtain headlines in the newspapers. There is no point in it. It is obviously not true. I cannot see any positive argument in favour of mentioning these sorts of amounts apart from obtaining publicity. I am talking about the positive aspects of the situation from the point of view of avoiding the drug trade and attracting people to it. If it were emphasised continually to people that the total amount any individual may make is very small-probably that is not the case with the people who are in charge of the racket- in the pushing and smuggling of the drugs and that their risk of apprehension is relatively large, I could see some point in such publicity. It would discourage people from getting involved in the drug trade.

However, I urge the Minister who is now at the table, and his counterpart Ministers in the States who have something to do with advising the prosecutors in the court cases, to try to changeperhaps over a couple of years- the sort of publicity that is given in these cases. At least let us see what happens. Let us have no publicity about the matter or at least no publicity about the huge amounts of money. By all means, if newspapers think it important enough and it will impress people- but I doubt it- let them carry the headline to the effect that 75 grams or whatever the quantity of drugs may be was confiscated in a haul. But I suggest to honourable members that newspapers would not consider that newsworthy because people would not know what 75 grams of a drug constituted. Therefore, fewer people would look at the newspaper and think that there was a lot of money in it. They would not think: ' If somebody makes me an offer when I come back from Bangkok -

Mr Birney - Bali.

Dr KLUGMAN - Yes, it could be Bali. People will not agree if somebody offers them what they consider to be some huge amount to bring back drugs. Obviously, I have no objection to this piece of legislation. I am speaking to the general workings of the narcotic drug Acts. I urge the Minister once more to consider my suggestion.

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