SUBMISSION OF FAMILIES AND FRIENDS FOR DRUG LAW REFORM TO THE INQUIRY OF THE SENATE LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE INTO THE PROVISIONS OF THE LAW AND JUSTICE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (SERIOUS DRUG OFFENCES AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2005
- Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform is grateful to the Committee for
the opportunity to comment on the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Serious
Drug Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2005. This submission focuses on those
aspects of the Bill that deal with drugs and in particular with those affecting drug
- The Bill is misnamed. It is far from confined to serious drug offences by large
scale suppliers. It is a radical extension of Commonwealth legislative authority into
the criminal law of drugs with potential application to every drug user in the country.
Moreover, it does this in a heavy handed way. Actions that in plain language would
not be regarded as ‘serious crimes’ will be labelled as serious drug offences to which
draconian penalties will apply.
- The first part of the submission draws these conclusions from an analysis of
the Bill. If the Commonwealth is intent upon legislating so broadly in the area of
drugs it should separate out the penalties for those parts of the Bill that deal with drug
users at the retail level from those parts that deal with commercially motivated drug
crime further up the supply chain. The penalties concerning drug users at the retail
level should be moderated.
- The submission then examines the claim that the Bill will protect young
people. It is a worry that legislation of potential application to the 2,510,100
Australians who are known to have used illicit drugs recently is founded on a
principle of deterrence that admits to the objective of making “the life of the habitual
user dangerous, arduous, frightening and expensive.” Parents want their children
protected from drugs but if they dabble in them they do not want them labelled as
serious criminals who are made an example of in such callous ways.
- The principal claim for the Bill is that it will “reduce the supply of illicit
drugs”. With regard to measures operating at higher levels of the distribution chain,
the submission finds no good basis for this assertion. The heroin drought and other
changes in drug supply and consumption patterns are examined in coming to this conclusion. With regard to the expected impact of the Bill at the retail level it is even
clearer that the Bill will not reduce the supply.
- Finally the submission queries the reasons for the introduction of wide-ranging
Commonwealth drug law. If it is to operate concurrently with State and Territory law
it needs to respect rather than undermine those aspects of existing law that are for the
benefit of drug users and young people that may experiment in drugs.