Controlled Substances (Youth Treatment Orders) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

I wish to first acknowledge and thank all members of the parliament who have made a contribution to this debate. I particularly acknowledge the considerable work of the Hon. Stephen Wade in the other place, who has supervised the passage of the bill through the Legislative Council, and, indeed, a number of the members on all sides of the parliament in that place, in a political sense, who undertook quite a lot of work in the development of what is ultimately before us in the bill.

The stakeholders who have been consulted over a period of time have been extensive and they have not always agreed with what is being proposed. I think of somebody like Michael White, the Executive Director of the South Australian Network of Drug and Alcohol Services (SANDAS), a leading body in relation to treatments and services available to support people with drug and alcohol issues. His view was very clear: he did not think that mandatory treatment in any way was acceptable. I think in our discussions he was able to present his basis for that and, by the same token, say that if it comes in he would like to be consulted about the model of care that would be developed to support this. These are the mature contributions, even when they do not agree with us, that we have valued.

Judge Eldridge, the Chief Judge and head of the Youth Court in South Australia and also chair of the equivalent of the parole board for children in South Australia, is someone of vast experience who has to deal with children either in a child protection manner or in relation to criminal aspects. This brings her front and centre with the problem and the devastating legacies of addiction, particularly those where the family has failed to protect children and where the children themselves may then have entered into conduct that is illegal. Frances Nelson QC has also provided wise counsel in relation to this as a leading criminal practitioner in this state and chair of the South Australian Parole Board.

Both have been clear in their support of the advance of this model, being a mandatory process via a health model. It is one which does, as I think other speakers have made clear, balance the need to protect our children and reverse the dereliction of duty of this parliament—indeed, leadership in the community at all—to have allowed our children to get to a state where we have ice addiction that we are now all so familiar with, but it predates that particular popular drug. This has been going on for a long time, certainly in the time I have been in the parliament.

I have been amazed at the diversity and number of people who have come to me—and I think I would share this with a number of members in the parliament—from all walks of life, from different backgrounds, who have been pleading with us to do something to protect children in these circumstances. Very often they are desperate parents, puzzled in many ways as to how the situation has got so bad for their child, but they are begging for somebody to do something to protect them because they see their son or daughter spiralling into a circumstance that is unsafe and completely unsatisfactory.

So we understand why we are here. The model has been teased out and developed and, in fact, enhanced in the other place. As I say, I welcome the contribution from the crossbench and from others in the debates there. To the people of South Australia I would like to say that it has been a long time since I issued a private member's bill in a similar format, which was dismissed by the parliament in 2017, obviously being voted down by the majority numbers of the Labor Party who, of course, were in government at that time.

I respect the decision of the parliament at that time, but I make the point that this is not an issue that is going to go away. We did make a commitment to progress it. We have had a considerable diverse contribution to its development and that has continued during the year or so during which this matter has been debated in this parliament.

We are getting to a stage where I foreshadow there will be some amendments in committee and some to tidy up. Some aspects have become clear now as a result of decisions that were made in the Legislative Council, but that does not in any way undermine the fact that some tidying-up amendments need to be made because subsequent amendments up there have made some of the sections superfluous. Wiser people than me have looked through the bill as it has come out of the considerable debates in the other place and identified some things that we need to tidy up if we are going to progress this, and I certainly hope the parliament is going to be in step with us on this side of the house to ensure that its passage is secure.

With that, I am happy to move to committee. I note that the opposition have foreshadowed two amendments that I have seen. Obviously, we will listen to the view in relation to those. One of those appears to be a variation of what had been previously put in the Legislative Council, so I will look at that as we progress. I thank all members. I just say to the people of South Australia that if this bill is able to pass this parliament and receive assent to the amendments that are being proposed here, we will have done something, finally, to help children, and the bill will be able to commence to provide a service to children who are already detained in youth centres.

We will continue to work with the model and how we might provide a service in the community for those other children but in a mandatory environment. So I thank all members and ask that the bill be now read a second time.

Bill read a second time.