Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 7 August 2014.)
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:16 ):
I have to say that I am very disappointed that the government will not support this private member’s bill because I think it makes good sense. I am very disappointed that they will not support it essentially on the premise that supporting this bill would remove all the positives of the existing scheme, because that is not the case. It would not prevent the many people who do gain a great deal of benefit from participating in the drug diversion scheme from continuing to do so. It would only actually stop the people who are taking advantage of the scheme from continuing to do so.
The member for Taylor, on behalf of the government, says that allowing people to have two diversions but not a third is just arbitrary. No, it is not arbitrary: it is a number. It is a decision that has to be made, but the reality is that a magistrate could still allow an offender to have a third or fourth or fifth drug diversion program, if the magistrate thought it was appropriate. There is nothing arbitrary about this at all. There is nothing arbitrary about actually just making a decision and making a recommendation.
Keep in mind that we are talking about offenders. We are trying to help offenders get their lives back on track. That is what everybody here should be wanting. There is nothing in this bill that would prevent offenders who are likely to do so from having that opportunity. They could be diverted once; they could be diverted twice. The third time they break the law, a magistrate could decide that they deserve a third opportunity or a fourth or a fifth, potentially, but what this bill does is stop the people who are going numerous times.
As we know from the police report, one person has done it 14 times, one person has done it 32 times. The police annual report will come out perhaps today—or, if not, sometime next week—and we will find out how many other offenders have been taking advantage of the system. This is only about trying to take out of the system the opportunity to take advantage of the system. It is not at all about trying to take the system away from the people who use it responsibly.
This is about people who have broken the law and helping them get back on track, not the people who have broken the law and clearly just want to take advantage of the opportunities given to them and have no intention of getting back on track. The police want this to happen; the public wants this to happen. I would challenge any MP to look into their heart and say that somebody who continually breaks the law in this way deserves an unlimited, never-ending opportunity to just take a program rather than actually face the consequences of the law. The consequences include a magistrate having the capacity to decide that perhaps they need another opportunity or two.
This would provide very immediate, very positive impact for people who clearly are on the wrong path. It is not any sort of a draconian measure in any way whatsoever. It provides great flexibility for people to access the support they need but not to take advantage of that by self-opting to take unlimited opportunities.
It would save police resources and the police seek this support. I put this bill forward during my time as shadow minister for police based on consultation with the police, based on requests from the police. I am very disappointed that the government opposes the bill. I will also be very interested to see if the government shortly proposes something else very similar to the bill and tries to claim the credit itself.
Second reading negatived.