Statutes Amendment (Drug Offenders) Bill

Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (11:02): I rise to indicate that I will be the lead speaker, complemented by other of our members, on the Statutes Amendment (Drug Offenders) Bill 2017. This is a bill introduced by the Attorney-General on 15 November to amend the Controlled Substances Act 1984 and the Criminal Assets Confiscation Act 2005.

We are told by the government via the second reading and various press announcements that this bill seeks, firstly, to allow courts, when sentencing, to consider an offence to be aggravated if a child was present at any stage when an offence occurred. We fully support this; it is not before time. The government were clearly embarrassed subsequent to a raid of a property, which received significant publicity, where children were in the environment of a residence that was also a place where drugs were manufactured. It has been too long before this matter has been addressed.

Secondly, the bill allows funds to be paid to the authorities administering the seizure, storage, selling and disposal of assets under the criminal assets confiscation laws before the net funds are paid into the Victims of Crime Fund. It appears on briefings provided by SAPOL and members of the department, and also a representative from the DPP, that there is some concern about the definition of what has to be seized. As I understand it, this amendment is to remedy what is seen as an impossible task by those confiscating assets if in fact they are obliged to take everything.

Frankly, if they come across children's clothing in a premises, I do not think that would require them to have to take that because clearly it would not be used for the benefit of the adults being charged. What I do say is that if it causes some concern, particularly in the area of having to take assets which clearly are not going to provide any productive financial refund on their sale to the fund, then they should not need to take it, and we agree with that. It is also to provide the DPP with discretion under the regulations to decide if it is uneconomic or impractical to seize those assets. That really covers the last issue. Used wisely in the regulatory power, they will not have any problem from the opposition.

The other area really comes back to the Controlled Substances Act and this question of allowing the police to search a person or their vehicle if that person is seen entering or leaving premises which the police may, in respect of the premises, reasonably suspect are being used for the manufacture, distribution or storage of illicit substances or chemicals. That is where we say the government have gone too far.

Our position on this matter is one that is consistent in other recent bills presented to the parliament where we see the police having quite appropriate and adequate powers in other legislation, such as the Summary Offences Act, the Road Traffic Act and the like, where, largely, they have to have reasonable suspicion and they have to justify certain circumstances to obtain warrants. They do have some very, very broad powers, particularly in criminal conduct, and we think that they are adequate and set an appropriate balance.

The government's ask in this part of the bill is without precedent. There is nowhere else in Australia—nowhere—where the police have this power to search anybody or any vehicle going in and out of a suspected property. There is no justification, I suggest, for bringing it and, even on inquiry from some of the wise advisers to government on this, apparently it does not even have any precedents in England. The question is: why are we doing it here in South Australia? Other than SAPOL asking for it, and of course they have a long list (I am sure Mr Speaker would remember his dim, dark time a long time ago as the attorney), and there was always an extensive list.

That is fine; that is part of their advocacy role—to get the best they can for their members because they have an important job to do—but sometimes it is over the fence and a bit out there. Sometimes it is so novel that it is an excellent idea and it is worth pursuing. In this case, it has to have merit to justify it as necessary. I appreciate Mr Illingworth from the DPP coming along to the briefings to outline a number of cases, which he indicated, at first blush, had caused the failing of the successful admissibility of evidence because of police protocol ostensibly not reaching an adequate threshold, which this amendment is attempting to remedy.

One of those cases was actually during the briefing ultimately withdrawn from being relied upon because, clearly, it was not a judgement that had any relevance to what is being asked here. Be that as it may, it was put on the table, disposed of and we went back to some other core cases; in two of those, it would have been easier for the police just to be able to arrest people on the way in or out. We say that even those judgements do not require a threshold change and certainly not a carte blanche in respect of the search of persons or vehicles.

In response to anyone, including the government because it is their usual wont, who wants to say, 'If you haven't done anything wrong, you shouldn't be worried about us stopping you anywhere, anytime, and searching you, asking questions and requiring you to cooperate with the police,' all that sounds great on FIVEaa, but let's understand here, in this place, about making laws that are important for the protection of people to go along in their ordinary course of their daily work. These are good, decent citizens, including the poor old bloke who might enter a property, unbeknownst to the fact that there is a methamphetamine lab at the back of the house, and goes in to read the water meter.

In our view, it is just not acceptable that it should be a case of, 'Capture everybody. Let's leave it to the discretion of those who are in this space.' I say in this instance that whilst we thank the police of the work they do, and they do a great job in both the investigation and prosecution of cases where people are involved in the storage, distribution, selling or manufacturing of these despicable drugs, please do not ask us to do something that potentially, in the hands of a minority, might be abused—that is, to make laws in those circumstances—because we are not prepared to do it.

Can I also say that this initiative, by legislation, comes to us as part of a suite of recommendations from a ministerial methamphetamine task force summary report, 'Stop the Hurt'. The document is around four pages of text, another four pages of pictures of people's fingernails, and some blank pages. It covers four different areas in which the government proposed to act to assist in dealing with this curse: reducing supply, increasing treatment, increased family support, and community education and capacity building.

First of all, when we asked for the report earlier this year, all we received was this summary—this little picture book of a few pages—as to what was being done. I am appalled at that because apparently ministers Malinauskas and Vlahos went around the state, consulting the world to try to identify how they could best deal with this problem, and this is what they have come up with. We are not allowed to know what anyone else has presented or what the findings were; we just received information on what will happen next from the government in cryptic language. Let me give you an example.

They say: 'Becoming a national leader in regulating the chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine.' Any South Australian reading that will think, 'Good on the government for doing that. Isn't that a good thing for them to do?' On inquiry, we find that is a complete myth. They are not actually 'becoming a national leader in regulating the chemicals'. They are going along to a national meeting run by a national body that is dealing with that issue. South Australia, along with the states and territories, is attending the meeting, which is being driven by national bodies and national administration.

It is important that we are part of those discussions, particularly where there needs to be some harmonisation of what goes on the list and those sorts of things, so that we can deal with that type of issue, including the storage and distribution of chemicals to build this stuff. That is part of the deal, but do not try to pretend, in this flimsy document, that you are doing something that you are not. That is not acceptable.

The second thing I will say is this: if Mr Malinauskas and Ms Vlahos had one nit of capacity in this area, they would have gone back to the November 2002 report prepared and provided to premier Rann after a comprehensive drug strategy summit. This was one of the first, and I think most commendable, things done by the prior Labor government when it took office in 2002. All the players were there by invitation. I was asked by the then premier to attend and represent the opposition. I had shadow education responsibilities at that stage.

Clearly, whatever we were going to action in relation to dealing with illicit drugs included police, education services and a multitude of other areas, including the then minister Weatherill's responsibility in relation to welfare. There is a surprising similarity between that much thicker report, including its recommendations and outcomes it ultimately presented, and the government's response to the drugs framework tabled on 11 November 2002.

Members should read it. It is a bit of deja vu. You would think that you had woken up tomorrow. Probably the only thing in here that is different is the government's initiative to establish the appointment of Monsignor Cappo's social inclusion unit, which has since bitten the dust. It cost $1 million a year. We received some quite good reports on mental health and other things out of it, but that has been and gone.

The same information is there. The same problem is there. The tragedy is that 15 years later we now have an abbreviated version, which I call an insult, presented to us as what needs to be done. Now the government are starting to get organised. I say 'starting', as it is a glacial pace. They say that they will increase the number of drug dogs and their handlers. I think that the next two we are to get have not been born yet, but, if they have, they have not yet even been trained. Goodness knows when we are going to get them. I saw a very interesting story on television the other night about the retirement of one of the SAPOL dogs who had apparently given many years of service. It was a wonderful story.

You have to wonder. They publish all these wonderful words about what they are going to do, and then you examine it against what is delivered and, sadly, it is incredibly disappointing. That is our position. Aspects of this bill are meritorious and we will support them. Extra search powers are novel, but they will not have our support.