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Wednesday, 8 December 1971
Page: 4304

Dr EVERINGHAM (Capricornia) - I thank the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) for curtailing his speech to allow this debate to continue and give more speakers an opportunity to participate in it. I hope to follow his example. The point which has been made in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is that the measure before the House aims to increase penalties without being specific, without being selective and without being discriminatory as to what is the cause of the drug problem in this country or in any other country. I support entirely the remarks which have been made by honourable members on this side of the House and a great deal of what has been said by honourable members on the other side of the House, but I must take issue with some of the remarks which have been made by honourable members on the other side of the House.

The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) confined almost the whole of his speech to a recital of the alleged, suspected or known effects of marihuana. Marihuana is not responsible in any country in the world for problems insofar as crime, disruption of families or increases in the road toll are concerned of the magnitude caused by alcohol or heavy drugs. In fact, the use of marihuana has not created any of the major drug problems which are associated with the use of alcohol or of heavy drugs. However, I want to point out that I do not advocate the use of marihuana. I have never advocated the use of it nor of any other drug, including tobacco.

Mr Nixon - Have you ever tried it?

Dr EVERINGHAM - No. I have not tried tobacco either; has the Minister?

Mr Nixon - No.

Dr EVERINGHAM -I should point out thatI have been engaged in a campaign in Parliament House of daubing one of the cigarette machines with a little bit of factual information, namely, the tar content of the cigarettes contained therein and whether certain brands of cigarettes are made in South Africa. Somebody who is equally as diligent as I have been has been removing these signs. I have got to the tenth one so far. I have also placed questions on the notice paper about what the Government is going to do about the erosion of morale in this country and about making alcohol and cigarettes fashionable and glamorous. Honourable members will be aware of the types of slogans that are used in the advertising of these products. For example, it is said that it is a man's drink or cigarette; it is international; and it is sophisticated. These products are associated with all kinds of fast cars, beautiful and luxurious surroundings, and young and attractive companions.

A reply was given to me in writing by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) that it is not thought possible to restrict this type of advertising on television because it would embarrass the commercial television stations and because they could not be able to keep going without the finance derived from cigarette advertising.I took up this matter in the House and said that if this sort of back to front logic is to be adopted with regard to advertising then perhaps we should impose a kind of excise on marihuana and even heavy drugs like heroin. Of course, the Press took up my comments and said that I was advertising the legalisation of illegal drugs. It was said that I was advocating the putting of an excise on them to make money. A public apology has been printed and more will bc printed when a particular court case comes to its conclusion. The point I want to make about marihuana is that every one of the effects quoted by the honourable member for Kennedy to prove how much worse it is than alcohol and tobacco are also the effects of alcohol and that suspected effects referred to were specifically repudiated, as the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) has told us, by the same authority as the honourable member for Kennedy quoted. The same authority as was quoted as having said that marihuana is suspected of causing deformities has denied that there is any medical evidence of this. I am not saying that marihuana is harmless; I am saying that it is harmful. I advise everybody not to touch it. I say the same of alcohol. I have been guilty of paying for alcoholic drinks for people.

Mr Cope - You have not bought me one.

Dr EVERINGHAM - Now is the honourable member's chance. 1 have bought drinks for people. I have served in my own home drinks that people have taken by choice. But if I lived in one of the parts of India in which there is prohibition I would not do so. I would not offer anybody in Australia a reefer because it is illegal to do so. But if I went to a country where it is the accustomed thing I do not know whether I would do so and I do not know whether some of the people who have been ranting about marihuana would do so.

As the honourable member for. Prospect (Dr Klugman) said, this Bill is a means of empire building by certain people in the customs field. I think it would be unkind to say that they are deliberately doing this. I do think that it would come to the responsible stage of having legislation prepared and passed if there are a few odd individuals in that Department who are just itching to get their hands on a new group of people in order to build up their power. I do not think they are working to that end; 1 think they are genuinely working to cope with the problem just as speakers in this debate from the other side of the House have been. However I point out that this is not the appropriate way to deal with the problem. This is what speakers on this side have been saying: If you want to reduce drug addiction you do not do it by increasing penalties. It may be that the penalties in this new Bill are too mild, and I am not going to say that they should not be heavier. I am not arguing for a reduction of the penalties. I am saying that this is not the way to reduce addiction and that something more widespread, something broader, is called for.

The civil servants employed by tha Government are not remiss in their approach to this problem. In fact I haw here a number of pamphlets from the National Drug Information Centre. It is a pity that more people did not know about this centre. People can get these pamphlets quite easily from the Australian Capital Territory Health Services in Darwin Place, Canberra. They bear such titles as 'Smoking Drinking and Drug Abuse', 'Motivations for Student Drug Use', 'Talking About Drugs', 'Leading a Discussion', "The Way We Live Now', 'The Needs of Young People', 'The Committed and Uncommitted', Drugs and Their Effect', 'Communication With Youth', "The Drug Dilemma: A Partial Solution' and 'Communicating About Drugs'. And there is a book from the New. South Wales Health Department entitled The Use and Abuse of Drugs'.

I want to quote from one of the officials. I must stress that this official is not from the Department of Customs and Excise but from the Department of Health, as are the pamphlets. I refer to Mrs Jean Nolan, a psychologist with the Department of Health, who spoke to the National Council of Women on the drug problem in perspective on 9th September this year. I want to quote from her in one respect. A report of her address states:

She said while emphasis In recent years has been on the growing abuse of drugs by young people, drug abuse was more prevalent among older people who relied on alcohol, tobacco and pills for relief or comfort.

We do not hear this from honourable members on the other side of the House. We have to get this information from their officials, their experts, when they put it into print, as it was in the Canberra 'News' on 10th September. The report continues:

She quoted a story about a 16-year-old boy who had been caught experimenting with drugs by his father.

He said: 'My father lectured me about drugs - but he did it with a cigarette in one hand and a whisky in the other, and then my mother went upstairs and took a tranquilliser because she was upset by the argument.

That is the point that we are making. The report continues:

Mrs Nolanstressed the matter was more a people' problem than a 'drug' problem.

This Bill is more a drug Bill than a people Bill, and that is the thing we are objecting to. We are asking the Government to face this problem as a people problem and not a drug problem.

Alcohol is the drug that I am mainly concerned with at the moment. An article in the Sydney 'Sun' of Friday, 10th September last. It states:

Alcoholism should be suspected in young patients suffering from peptic ulcers, hypertension

Which is just high blood pressure, in case people do not know - and car accident injuries, according to a report released today.

The report was from a University of Melbourne research team investigating physical illness in alcoholics. It said that these symptoms frequently occurred within the first 5 years of heavy drinking. The team took case histories of 1,000 alcoholic patents at a hospital alcoholism clinic in Melbourne and it analysed data in regard to factors such as age, sex and occupation. It found that heart and chest diseases were more common among men but that women were much more prone to chronic liver disease and brain damage. This is only scratching the surface of the kind of illness that we know and have known for many years is associated with heavy drinking.

We have heard evidence in this debate that half of all Australian males are heavy drinkers if we define a heavy drinker as a person who has 4 drinks or more a day on average. What is heavy drinking? To relate it to this disease we would have to take out extensive statistics. All my questions over the years to successive Ministers for Health have failed to elicit any attempt to discover any kind of statistics relating alcohol to disease. However leading officials in this country, notably I think the Chief Government Medical Officer in Victoria and in Western Australia, have given a figure of about 50 per cent as the percentage of cases in which alcohol played a part in fatal traffic accidents. In recent years Queensland has made it mandatory that all post mortems by government medical officers must include alcohol analysis of the blood, and no doubt this will be one area where we will have some statistics in time. But the point is that alcohol is a lethal substance let loose on the community without medical prescription. A person does not even have to sign a drug register as he does when he buys rat poison, yet alcohol is killing people at an increasing rate each year because alcoholism is increasing, traffic accidents are increasing, and liver disease and the other diseases to which I have referred in this debate are increasing.

Getting back to marihuana, there are several consistencies in the data put forward by the honourable member for Kennedy. First of all he lulls us to sleep with this reassurance that alcohol, of course, is not nearly as dangerous as marihuana because it confuses us and we become muddled whereas there is a dangerous clarity which accompanies the hallucinations that come with marihuana. He then goes forth to quote one of the experts. He quoted the sorts of reactions that people have to prove that marihuana is a dangerous drug. People can get panicky; they can have a loss of identity; they can have confusion and hallucinations. Here be is contradicting the very point he made before to distinguish it from alcohol. People get confused with hallucinations, just as confused as the alcoholic and people who are suffering from various other kinds of disorders. Then he quoted to us a very detailed and dramatic story of a young lad who had killed his parents, sister and a couple of brothers. He quoted the police officer who found this lad as saying that this lad, who was normally a quiet sort of chap, was visibly crazed; he did not seem to have any appreciation of what he had done. If that is being in a clear mind I do not know what clarity of mind is. If that lad had clarity of mind he had an appreciation of what he had done. In other words he was just as confused as the alcoholic who goes home drunk and murders his family with a hatchet. He was just as drunk on marihuana. 1 am not saying that marihuana is less harmful in individual cases; 1 am saying that the marihuana problem has not reached the diamensions of the alcohol problem, and it does not look like becoming of those dimensions, because the biggest sector of alcoholism that causes trouble is the alcohol addicts. We have heard in this debate that 5 per cent of males and one per cent of females are addicted to alcohol. We have a problem with alcohol that we are most unlikely to have - perhaps may never have - with marihuana. We will never get io the stage where we have addicts with the chronic effects of alcohol. Certainly, there will be people who will keep on resorting to it. Maybe there will be long range effects about which we do not know yet. At this point, I thank the House for sparing me this time and according to my undertaking, I resume my seat.

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