CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES (COMMERCIAL OFFENCES) AMENDMENT BILL

Thursday 14 May, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (10:42): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I thank those who have assisted in the drafting of this bill, and I also note that it will be circulated to key groups who take an interest in the bill.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (10:42): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I thank those who have assisted in the drafting of this bill, and I also note that it will be circulated to key groups who take an interest in the bill.

Drug trafficking is the most serious drug offence that you can commit in South Australia, but there is a flaw here in South Australia with the law surrounding drug trafficking. It was a flaw that the Supreme Court highlighted in a case from 2 April 2014: R v Faehrmann; R v Moore; R v Price-Austin—a judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal in the Supreme Court. The judges in that case where the Hon. Chief Justice Kourakis, the Hon. Justice Blue and the Hon. Justice Nicholson.

Drug trafficking is a business for drug dealers. When drug dealers in South Australia are convicted of drug trafficking and other offences, we take drugs off our streets. The law in South Australia does not consider drug trafficking and other offending as a continuing business, and this results in lower sentences for drug traffickers. The Supreme Court of South Australia last year ruled that the current law does not allow drug traffickers to be sentenced to higher terms of prison due to the limited nature of the current offences.

Today, I am following a recommendation of the Chief Justice and the other two justices of the Supreme Court. I note that, in Queensland, they have the laws that I am introducing today. We will introduce this bill, which will streamline the prosecution and sentencing for people convicted of drug trafficking and other offences.

The Controlled Substances (Commercial Offences) Amendment Bill 2015 will allow the DPP to prosecute and courts to sentence alleged drug traffickers and manufacturers for the totality of their offending, not just individual instances that the current law provides. People who traffic and manufacture commercial quantities of drugs do so over a long period of time, and sometimes they may commit multiple offences, not all of which can be encompassed properly when charged under the current law, and the Supreme Court has highlighted this flaw.

As the law currently stands, a person can only be sentenced to prison based on a specific instance of offending, not the totality of their offending over a long period of time. As I mentioned, the laws I am seeking to introduce already exist in Queensland, and the implementation of similar laws is a recommendation from the Supreme Court in the 2014 case I quoted, where they say at 57:

The merits of adopting in South Australia a provision like s 5(1) of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) deserves the attention of the legislature.

That is what we are here to do. As the sovereign law-making body of this land in South Australia, we are called to listen to the wisdom of Supreme Court judges when they make recommendations like this. I do believe that the current Attorney-General actually appointed these three esteemed gentlemen, too. We are called to listen to the Supreme Court, and if there is a better way of prosecuting drug traffickers I think we are called to put these kinds of laws in place. This bill will help, I believe, create a more efficient and effective justice system, and it is now up to the Attorney-General and the Weatherill Labor government to decide whether or not they will support what is a common-sense addition to our law in South Australia.

I have given the benefit to the Attorney-General of having the past year to read this case. I have not seen the government propose such a law; hence after a year we are doing it from opposition. The Attorney and the government have certainly had the opportunity to consider this recommendation, which is in the public forum, and it has been in the public forum for over a year, and this is why after a year we are taking action on this side of the chamber and proposing these changes. We on this side of the chamber take drug trafficking very seriously, and that is why we want to do whatever we can to prosecute what are some of the worst hardcore drug dealers going around in South Australia.

Drugs, as we all know, are a scourge in our society, and we need to be tough on drug crime, but we not only need to be tough on drug crime but we also need to be smart in how we go about drug crime. This begins with introducing laws like this that will, I have no doubt, streamline the prosecution and sentencing for people convicted of drug trafficking and other offences. I would say that this is common-sense law reform. It is common-sense law reform, and it must be supported by the government. These laws have been highly successful in Queensland and, if they have been highly successful at prosecuting drug traffickers there, why would we not adopt them here? That is a question the Attorney-General needs to ask.

A judge, when they sentence for an offence against section 5(1) of the Drugs Misuse Act in Queensland, may make findings consistent with the verdicts or other sentencing materials as to the totality—the whole—of the offending of the period charged. Over there, they can fix a sentence which is proportionate to the totality of the conduct, but in South Australia it is in stark contrast, and a judge is required to sentence for the particular offences of which the defendant has been convicted and the trafficking context to which these offences are related and committed. They cannot do anything more than inform perhaps the prospects for rehabilitation or perhaps the degree of personal deterrence on the other which that sentence must reflect.

To put it in a simple way, an offender who is sentenced for an offence committed in the course of commercial trading—and that is what this law seeks to do: it seems to make this captured because the law at the moment does not consider drug trafficking and other offending as a continuing business—cannot and will not (this is the intent) expect the same leniency which might be afforded to a defendant who commits an isolated offence.

Here we are: it is a common-sense bill and I will put it out to consultation, as I mentioned. It is about time that this government got serious on drugs. They say they are serious about getting tough on drugs. Let's do something about it. The Attorney-General needs to show the people of South Australia that he is not just tip and no iceberg. I commend the bill to the house and I ask the government to support this bill.