I make a brief contribution to the Community Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. This bill makes a number of reforms purporting to strengthen community safety in the areas of terrorism, high-risk offenders, bushfires, child abuse and the supply of drugs causing death. I will address schedule 2, which amends the Crimes Act 1900 to establish a new offence for supplying a prohibited drug to another person for material or financial gain, who then self-administers that drug and dies as a result.
I strongly believe we need a holistic, evidence-based response that acknowledges illicit drug use as a health issue. After decades of trying, it is clear that we cannot arrest our way out of the challenges posed by illicit drug use. That position is widely accepted in the community, including by experts and stakeholders working in the areas of medical, legal and law enforcement. This view is also shared by the countless residents in my community who have spoken to me over the past few years about this issue, including the parents of young people who want to ensure their children are safe. The amendment proposed in this bill is in response to the recommendations of the Premier's expert panel on music festival safety, which was formed following the tragic deaths of two young people at the Defqon.1 music festival in Penrith.
Following news that the Premier was forming the panel to look at new offences and other measures, I and the other members of the NSW Cross‑Party Harm Minimisation Roundtable, including the member for Sydney, wrote requesting an opportunity to meet with the panel. The Premier acquiesced to our request and we met with the expert panel to discuss the merits of harm minimisation as a fundamental part of the Government's response. Although pill testing was ruled out of consideration, we advocated a number of measures to the expert panel.
First, we recommended that the Government not introduce any new offences or penalties; secondly, we recommended that the panel speak with organisations and researchers in the harm minimisation space and with the Australian Capital Territory Government's Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events, the consortium that conducted pill testing at the Groovin the Moo festival; thirdly, we recommended the Premier support a reputable not-for-profit organisation trial of a roving peer education program akin to the AIDS Council of NSW's successful Rover program; fourthly, we recommend a trial of amnesty bins at music festivals; fifthly, we recommend a trial of real‑time reporting on drug safety; sixthly, we recommend ending the use of sniffer dogs at music festivals; and, finally, we recommended that the New South Wales Parliament convene a drug summit following the 2019 State election.
The panel recommended a number of harm minimisation measures designed to improve safety at music festivals, including the funding of non-government organisations to provide peer education and medical support at music festivals and the development of best practice guidelines on harm reduction approaches and messaging. This bill legislates the panel's recommendations with regard to the creation of new offences. I note the strong objections of the New South Wales Bar Association to these provisions in the bill, rooted in strong concerns about the fundamental principle of criminal law in this country and in common law around the world that an accused person should only be held criminally responsible for events that the accused caused. The Bar Association also refers toBurns v Queen , where the High Court of Australia found that:
... the voluntary assumption of the risk by an adult person may negate or confine any duty of care arising between two persons engaged in an illegal drug supply transaction.
The Bar Association notes in its objection that:
This legislation holds another individual responsible for the choice and act of self-administration of the second person in circumstances where there is knowledge of exposure of the other person to a significant risk of death should the second person take the drug.
The Bar Association also notes that the legislation cannot account for the specific circumstances or risks of taking an illicit drug. Previous speakers have discussed some of those possible circumstances—for example, does the supplier know if a drug is in a higher concentration, the consumer has an allergy to elements of the drug, the consumer has a previously undiagnosed condition or previous illness that reacts with that drug or the consumer has taken other illicit drugs or alcohol? It is clear that the supplier would not know those circumstances.
The Bar Association urges the Government to increase investment in harm reduction and demand reduction strategies and take measures to decriminalise individual possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. These measures should be the foundation of future policy on illicit drug use, as guided by the drug summit that this side of the House supports and that I hope all parliamentarians would support following the 2019 election. That summit should look at every option available to us as we rise to meet the challenges posed by illicit drug use. Those options include pill testing, amnesty bins, peer education and ending the use of sniffer dogs at music festivals. A summit should also re-examine legislation like this—free from the hurly‑burly of politics and the current period of the political cycle—and put forward innovative and creative approaches that reduce harm and will fundamentally save lives.
I reiterate my strong support for a drug summit, because politicians are not the experts when it comes to illicit drug use. As I have said before, we can read reports, we can analyse statistics and we can make assumptions based on stories in the media. But the truth is that we cannot fully fathom the cost of illicit drug use or make sense of the solutions unless we talk to those who are most affected by it. We must respect and work with drug consumers. We must listen to doctors, nurses, paramedics, social workers, drug and alcohol specialists, academics, legal professionals and the police, who rise to the challenge of illicit drug use each and every day. They are the experts. They deserve our support and respect and must be listened to. I look forward to prosecuting the case for a harm minimisation response as part of a drug summit, as part of a future Labor Government.