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Friday, 16 October 1970

Mr CHIPP (HOTHAM, VICTORIA) (Minister for Customs and Excise) - In answer to the last part of the honourable gentleman's question, unhappily there is evidence of school children being peddled drugs of certain descriptions by those creatures who seem to have no conscience about selling anything for money. Fortunately, to this stage, the situation has not reached alarming proportions; but, as I have said before, the trends are such that they cause us deep concern. Security in chemist shops is another matter that is causing us great worry. As the efficiency of the Narcotics Squad of the Department of Customs and Excise, working in co-operation with the State Police drug squads, increases and we manage to clean Sydney out of pot or marihuana, for example, or Melbourne out of marihuana for a period, the increase in the outbreak of robberies or chemist busts, as they are called, is comparable with the increase in the sale of ice cream when there is a rise in temperature. When one looks at the security arrangements that exist in most pharmacies in Australia one has cause to feel concern. In some States, for example, the law provides that all dangerous drugs should be locked safely in a certain place. I have inspected these certain places and find that they are simply cupboards which I, not experienced in safebreaking, could open with a screwdriver in about 10 seconds and there, conveniently exposed for any thief, are all the dangerous drugs ready to be parcelled up and taken away.

But the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence has asked each State Government to legislate for drugs to be placed in safes which would provide some deterrent to a thief. I understand that New South Wales already has some legislation on this question and that other States are following. It is my hope that they will follow as quickly as possible. As far as penalties are concerned, I have mentioned before in this House the deep concern that I and State Ministers charged wim this responsibility are showing for the lightness of penalties imposed by courts on drug pushers. I am now not speaking of those who are simply users but of drug pushers who are not users. It just goes beyond my comprehension how, when parliaments both State and Federal set a maximum penalty of 10 years for such an offence, a pusher who is convicted with virtually no extenuating circumstances can be released by a court on payment of a $1,000 fine or is sentenced to 2 months imprisonment. I have said before in this House that Parliaments are loath to introduce minimum penalties for any offence hut I must say that my personal view is that unless some more realistic action is taken by the courts on this national problem the temptation will be placed before parliaments to legislate in that way.

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