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Monday, 15 October 2018
Page: 7048


Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (12:11): Just when I thought I couldn't be surprised by a contribution in this place: well, I honestly thought I was on Candid Camera there for a minute, waiting for someone to pop up from the Clerk's desk with some sort of a party whistle! That contribution to this debate on the Criminal Code and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Commonwealth Restrictions on Cannabis) Bill 2018, coming from a medical practitioner, was nothing short of extraordinary.

I'll just take for a moment the things the good doctor didn't say—these impacts that he talks about, which in his case he believes are fair and reasonable for a society to accept. It's well-known in this chamber that I'm a retired police detective. I suspect I have had more to do with cannabis users, people who've used drugs and the abuse of drugs than anyone else in this place. I can assure the leader of the Greens that to dismiss the impacts of the abuse of cannabis and its cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, being the agent within the 96 cannabinoids within marijuana or cannabis sativa, is irresponsible. There is an enormous body of evidence all over the world about the impacts of long-term use of cannabis, particularly on young people. Conditions such as anxiety, paranoia, cognitive impairment and psychotic symptoms are very commonly associated with cannabis users, particularly long-term cannabis users.

I think there's a fair argument that a high percentage of young people, particularly in the seventies and eighties and maybe a bit before then, dabbled in drugs of all sorts, cannabis probably being the most common, because at that time it featured predominantly in the marketplace. For many, it was a passage in their life. They might fiddle lightly or moderately with cannabis over a period of time, and then of course they move on in life and go on to marry and have a family, and their views and attitudes to the consumption of cannabis clearly change. But for those, and there are a lot, who become addicted to this particular drug—and make no mistake about it, it is a drug of addiction—you can pick them out of the crowd. You can pick them out of the shopping centre. You can see those who have had very long-term—decades—consumption of cannabis and the impacts it has on them.

There's clear peer reviewed, unequivocal evidence that shows that after the long-term use of cannabis adults lose up to eight IQ points, so it affects their cognitive ability to function. What if we were to take everything in our society as suggested by the good doctor that's a challenge and legalise it, so it no longer becomes a challenge—or, offensively, with his remarks, to increase the revenue of the state on the plight of people who would adopt a further legal addiction? I hear him on the effects of alcohol on some, and certainly the effects of harder drugs on some have a greater impact than that of cannabis sativa use. I'm happy to trade them off if the leader of the Greens can give us a solution where we can get ice out of the marketplace, for example. So you hand in your ice permit and we'll replace it with a marijuana permit. I might give some thought to this. Probably not for very long, but I may give some consideration to it; but that's not what's happening. We've got a litany of drugs in our community that are impacting on people and their health. To suggest that somehow by legalising it is an acceptable condition, because they're going to do it anyway, is a complete nonsense. That is a complete and absolute nonsense.

I simply couldn't believe the contribution made by Senator Di Natale, particularly as a medical physician. As is the case with most of the contributions from the Greens, you have to have a very keen ear to listen to what they don't tell you. They'll make arguments that are positive to their intent and their objectives but what they fail to do is touch on issues. We have seen it here time and time again. We hear them prattle on about climate change and the need to get rid of coal. But they do not mention one word about the 180,000 direct and indirect jobs in my home state, and the literally hundreds of communities whose local economies rely directly on coal. So no solution; just an idea.

We hear it with the illegal immigrants time and time again. I've listened for five years. I've turned my ear to that corner of the chamber to hear them once accept any responsibility for the 1,200 deaths on the high sea that occurred with immigrants coming to this country. I urge people who listen to the contribution from the leader of the Greens to listen very carefully, go over the text of the Hansard and find where there was any reasonable effort on the part of Dr Di Natale to talk about the impacts on individual lives.

As a detective I didn't just deal with people who were involved in and addicted to cannabis sativa. The spectrum with respect to cannabis sativa is enormous. Some of it has mild impacts and some of it has quite significant impacts on people's behaviour. It has been associated with violence in the home. It has been associated with all of the other peripheral crimes that go with people who have taken mind-altering drugs—for example, driving vehicles and operating machinery. We have come a long way in this country to be able to curb some of those things.

In fact, the impacts of cannabis intake last a lot longer on the individual than the intake of alcohol. I don't know when, under Dr Di Natale's plan, they're going to have their puff. They won't be able to drive a car within the next 24 hours. They won't be able to go to work and operate heavy equipment. They'll be impaired around dangerous equipment and processes in their workplace and will harm themselves and, indeed, harm others. There's a massive body of evidence that supports that proposition, because we now have drug testing. Of course, we've heard the Greens argue before that they don't want drug testing. I remember the extraordinary motion that they endeavoured to pass through this place with respect to that. His contribution should be ignored and this bill should be knocked out.

Debate interrupted.