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Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 182

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) (Assistant Minister Assisting the Minister for Health) - I have 'been placed in an embarrassing situation because I thought the debate would end at 3.10 p.m. I shall continue putting on record aspects

Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse in relation to marihuana. Obviously the Government is going to accept the Committee's recommendation and it is not going to legalise marihuana. I can say that that has the full approval of all State governments. It is true that the Commonwealth has not taken heed of our recommendation for an immediate grant of $5m to the States - according to their requirements - for treatment centres. But I am informed that a report prepared by the Mental Health Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council is currently under study by Commonwealth and State Departments of Health in preparation of a review by a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in relation to this matter. At least it can be recorded that the governments are considering this aspect.

I think that enough has been said and is known in relation to education but, for Senator Turnbull's information, I say that the Commonwealth has produced, under a vote of $500,000, in the last 3 years a lot of very worthwhile pamphlets, television shorts and films which have been made available to and are greatly appreciated by the State governments which are using them according to their sovereign rights as they wish to have them. The Committee's recommendations in relation to penalties have been referred to. The situation is that all States have agreed on the maximum penalties for drug offenders which is in accordance with the Committee's recommendations. Of course penalties are up for review. Opinions will always differ as to whether a problem is cut out by increasing the severity of a penalty. As a Committee we were worried that in some States heroin, which is an illegal drug in Australia, could still be retained in chemists' shops. I am glad to say that the last bastion of heroin in Australia is going to be closed very shortly. I believe it is true to say that when this happens anybody holding stocks of heroin in Australia will be guilty of an offence.

The Government is fully conscious of its responsibilities as 'brought to its notice by the Committee in regard to international agreements. Of course, we know that it has ratified the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In relation to drug abuse research money has always been available. From this it is obvious to me that the Government has shown itself willing to provide funds for suitable drug research projects to be carried out in Australia when application is made. The Committee made a recommendation regarding the setting up of a committee to oversee all the educational and sociological aspects of the drug problem in Australia. An education sub-committee to which -I have referred has been working on this matter. There are signs that the States and the Commonwealth want to alter the set-up and perhaps improve it and give the committee more power and bring in a wider coverage of people suitable for it. One can say that this is under way. As a result of the Committee's report a senior specialist to advise on problems associated with drug dependence took up duty with the Commonwealth Department of Health in December 1971. I know that his services both as a guide and counsellor .on aspects of the problem of drug dependence have had a valuable part to play in the Commonwealth Department of Health and I believe his goodwill has flowed throughout the Commonwealth.

Senator Wright - Does the honourable senator think that some of this information could toe given to Senator Turnbull so that we will not be inflicted with a repetition of his speech all the time?

Senator MARRIOTT - I can never be responsible for who will read 'Hansard and who will not. Like Senator Turnbull, I might be skating on thin ice if I said any more. I thank the Senate for its indulgence. I have put on record a brief outline of the progress being made. Perhaps I have enlarged a little more than I should have and commented on particular aspects of the drug problem which I see as so important. I finish toy saying: Please 'do not leave the Senate and say that the drug problem is the problem of the youth of Australia. The drug problem is the problem of the adult population of Australia who are responsible for it and who participate in it. A very small proportion of the youth of Australia today is abusing drugs. It is the simple truth, according to the information which I have available, that the youth of today will give the drugs away after the age of 25 years. It is by example more than precept, by being fair in our comments and wide in our understanding that we may play some part in carrying on the work which I think the Senate Committee did a lot to start.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.

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