CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES (YOUTH TREATMENT ORDERS) AMENDMENT BILL

Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (10:35): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I introduce this bill today for an act to amend the Controlled Substances Act 1984, essentially to make provision for drug treatment orders without consent for children. 'Children' in the bill are defined as those under the age of 18 years. In short, the bill will amend our Controlled Substances Act which, as members know, is legislation providing for the prohibition where necessary of production, sale, supply, possession, etc., of certain poisons, drugs and medicines, which we readily acknowledge should continue to be under some protective measure and statutory regulation.

In dealing with drugs of dependence, this bill will allow for the assessment and treatment of persons under the age of 18 years who, when assessed by a court, there is a reasonable likelihood that the child is dependent on one or more controlled drugs, and the child may be a danger to himself or herself, and further that, the child is unlikely to voluntarily seek relevant assessment. If the court is satisfied in those circumstances, they will have power under this bill to provide for the order for treatment and to be detained for that purpose under a formal detention order for the purpose of that treatment being undertaken.

The controlled substances are defined in the Controlled Substances Act. In particular, the regulations make provision for that which is a drug of dependence and, as members would appreciate, these relate to amphetamines and the like. There is a very extensive list in the regulations; I will not go into them. We are talking about drugs that are illicit to the extent that there is some regulatory and prescribed administration available in certain circumstances, but for the purposes of children they are illegal and certainly identified as dangerous drugs that can be highly dependent and addictive.

The other aspects of the bill make provision for the applicant to be either a family member of the child or an officer of the department, the department being defined in this case in respect of child welfare. It is in a state of flux at the moment, but obviously we are dealing with children's protection and welfare in a general sense.

Alternatively, it is a person holding or acting in the Office of the Public Advocate under the Guardianship and Administration Act or a person who satisfies the court that he or she has a proper interest. I have been asked already who that should apply to, and of course that may be a police officer, particularly if a child is at large, that is, homeless and not with their parents or not under the guardianship of the minister of the state. There may be other parties who should make a reasonable application.

In making the orders, the court has to be satisfied, firstly, that there is an addiction (and that relies on medical evidence that there is an addiction) and, secondly, that, as a result of that, having been assessed to be dependent on one or more controlled drugs, they are a danger to himself or herself and will not voluntarily seek help. That is the ambit we are seeking. Certainly, I do not want to diminish the fact that persons over the age of 18 years who are addicted to illicit drugs, either prescription drugs or alcohol and the like, are not a problem in our community. I totally accept that, but this bill relates only to children and only in the narrow circumstances where there is a Magistrates Court order based on medical evidence of addiction and risk.

The situation around the country is that we already have very significant mental health legislation to deal with the treatment, either in care or outside a facility, around the country and to make provision for mandatory treatment orders where there is a diagnosed mental health condition. Obviously, that relates to psychiatric care, facilities and treatment, sometimes by injection, as I say, in-house or outside of the facility. Around the nation, we have three jurisdictions that have moved not just to mental health disorder protection under this type of regime but also to treatment of alcohol or drugs.

The Northern Territory has a mandatory alcohol treatment model that deals with adults who may be subject to an alcohol mandatory treatment order if they present three or more times within a two-month period as intoxicated in public, and that is a model that deals with alcohol addiction and mandatory treatment. That is not what we are dealing with here, but I think it is important that members be aware that it has been taken up in the special circumstances that may be confronting the Northern Territory.

Secondly, New South Wales has an involuntary drug and alcohol treatment program whereby, under their Drug and Alcohol Treatment Act 2007, a person can be placed in an involuntary drug alcohol treatment program providing for short-term care with an involuntary supervised withdrawal component where it is deemed to be:

…to protect the health and safety of people with severe substance dependence, who have experienced, or are at risk of, serious harm and whose decision making capacity is considered to be compromised due to their substance use.

In that jurisdiction, yes, in limited circumstances there is power to deal with it. In Victoria, there is the Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Act 2010, which allows for:

… a brief period ( up to 14 days ) of detention and compulsory treatment of people where this is necessary as a matter of urgency to save the person's life or prevent serious damage to their health. It is a last resort treatment option for a very small group of people who, without life - saving intervention, would most likely become permanently disabled or die. The A ct is not targeted to people who are capable of making choices about their substance abuse, including refusing treatment.

Members, I do not want to wait for our children who fall foul of addiction to illicit drugs to become homeless, mentally unwell, pregnant in an unwanted way or in prison before we act. We, as legislators, have a responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can for the children who are captured in these circumstances.

I would imagine that there would hardly be a person in this room who had not in some way been affected within their family, immediate or extended, their circle of friends or in their community and seen the dire situation, not just for a child but for their family, when that young person is in the grip of addiction. I ask all members to open their eyes, open their minds and open their hearts to the very real human and financial problems that we have in this state dealing with these children.

It is not new law when it comes to those who have a mental health condition. I do not want to wait until our children have a psychosis, a depressive illness or, ultimately, be suicidal before we act in this regard. The human cost alone of trying to treat a young person who has been an addict, who has developed a mental condition, compounds the problem and the lengths to which we need to go to invest in that child to hopefully give them some chance of recovery and for them be able to live a normal life.

I do not think there would be any members in this place who have not had someone in their electorate who is a family member, usually a parent, who pleads with them to try to help find their homeless child, to help deal with a drug addiction, to fight a charge of criminal exposure for their child because they might have stolen property or goods in order to deal with a drug addiction or, worse still, have a child who has come into a mental health or emergency department in this state because they are already in the grip of that addiction.

Nothing we can do at present—nothing, absolutely nothing—helps them when that child says, 'No, there's nothing wrong with me,' or, 'I won't get treatment. I won't deal with this.' It is criminal if we leave this unattended. I ask members to be serious in their consideration of this bill and not be blinded by what we have in some areas of expertise, this idea that only something that is voluntary will be effective. We have mandatory treatment. We have mandatory counselling. For example, if people want a divorce, if they are married for less than two years we have a mandatory counselling procedure. We have all sorts of mandatory things when we want to deal with a major issue.

In this case, we do not have a remedy for these children. We do not have an answer to those parents—but we must. I ask members to look beyond the situation. During the course of consultation on this matter, after the leader asked me to take on the area of justice for the opposition I convened a drug treatment round table on 27 May this year, ably supported by my colleagues in the parliament, the member for Davenport and our shadow minister for corrections and police, the member for Stuart, and members of their staff. They worked with me and members of my staff to get together people who were going to have a direct interest in making sure that we dealt with this issue.

People in charge of prisons, who have to deal on a daily basis with the problem we have in managing children and adults in our prison system when they enter with a drug addiction, say, 'We have an obligation obviously to keep them safe and secure. We don't necessarily have the time or resources to help them treat their drug addiction, but it is a problem.' We know that, we read it on the front page of the paper. Of course, I have dealt with those who provide services, and I will come to them in a moment. They are struggling with a lack of resources and a lack of capacity to deal with the issue.

I have dealt with people in the court system. I have worked in the court system, and I understand how magistrates and members of the profession have had to work and deal with people who present with drug addiction. Our children in particular, whilst they have an alternative Drug Court procedure to have access to voluntary treatment, are asked, 'Do you want to go to prison or a detention training centre or do you want to tell me that you're going to enter into a voluntary program?'. This is probably not really perceived as voluntary, but they have to struggle with it. The police have to struggle with it on a daily basis, dealing with children, especially if they are at large and homeless, when they come up in front of the law, when they are trying to keep public order and prevent crime. All these people have to work with these areas.

In South Australia, the option you have, even under a voluntary treatment program, is to access a private facility which, on my inquiry, costs something like $2,000 to $3,500 a week for an in-house private treatment centre. There is no private health insurance for it. If they are in there for a 12- week period, it is a massive cost and, obviously, it is available to a minuscule number of people who can afford it. I have heard of adults who have taken advances on their superannuation funds to be able to do it. We have a community centre such as Teen Challenge, and some of you will be familiar with that. It is church-supervised. We have a government facility, the Woolshed, which currently has a three-month waiting list, just for people to voluntarily go in to have some treatment.

Of course, they do everything they can to make provision while they are in custody in the juvenile services but, as I say, most often, it is for a short period of time and this needs to be addressed inside and outside incarceration. We certainly do not want to hold people in prison or children in a training centre any longer than we have to to ensure that they are treated. We have the national statistics, which we tell everybody. The federal government has money on the table from their task force inquiry into ice. Please, members, consider this carefully. I seek your support.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Picton.