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Controlled Substances (Youth Treatment Orders) Amendment Bill

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:13): I rise to speak on the Controlled Substances (Youth Treatment Orders) Amendment Bill. This bill will allow concerned parents or guardians to apply to the court to have a young person committed to undertake mandatory treatment if they have a drug dependency. Prosecutors, youth correction and child protection officers and medical practitioners will also be allowed to make application for mandatory treatment. I understand this bill is in response to frustrated parents who have not been able to do anything about their drug addicted children who are out of control and posing a danger, not only to the community but, more importantly, to themselves.

Children, teenagers especially, often think they know everything. They think they are invincible and often do not see the damage they are causing to themselves and their loved ones. Developmentally, they do not have the ability to fully recognise the effects of their behaviour and the choices they are making. I can understand why there are supporters of mandatory treatment. However, with matters such as substance dependency, early intervention measures are often much more effective.

As the saying goes, it is better to have a fence at the top of the cliff rather than an ambulance at the bottom. By intervening early, issues can be identified before they escalate. I believe it would be a good use of money if funding were given to provide these types of services. Outcomes are more successful and ultimately it costs less. With regard to treatment for substance dependency, often outcomes are better if a holistic approach is adopted. This is especially the case for children where so many other factors are impacting upon their life, many factors which are completely out of their control. Looking at the reasons why a person turned to drugs and addressing this issue is vital, instead of just focusing on the dependence itself. If the underlying issue is not resolved, it is likely that substance abuse will continue regardless of how many times rehabilitation treatment is undertaken.

I have been contacted by a number of stakeholders, including the Office of the Guardian for Children and Young People, SANDAS, the AMA and SACOSS, who have all expressed deep concerns over this bill. The underlying theme of these concerns is that neither the bill or the minister has been able to outline the model of care that would be utilised should this bill pass. Concerns about the lack of protections for young people have also been raised, as has the fact that there is little evidence to support that mandatory rehabilitation of minors is effective.

As a result of these concerns, I have contacted the minister's office to request further information on how the treatment would be administered. I understand the demand for voluntary treatment is not being met due to the lack of available services, so there is very real concern as to where and how mandatory treatment will be undertaken. There has been some suggestion that treatment may have to be administered in training centres because there are no other facilities available. This is unacceptable, and I want an assurance that this will not happen. However, I am yet to receive any information from the minister.

Whilst I support the second reading, I will reserve my position on the bill to allow more time for information to be forthcoming. Notwithstanding the above and my final position on the bill, I have filed amendments which will remove cannabis from the list of drugs that an application can be based on. Cannabis is treated differently in the Controlled Substances Act in terms of the severity of the penalty, and there is a worldwide movement in the change in attitude towards cannabis. As such, a young person should not be forced to undertake mandatory rehabilitation if their only dependence is upon cannabis.

I have also moved an amendment so that if someone successfully completes treatment, upon agreement of completion by an authorised person the treatment or detention order is automatically lifted. This is to prevent the circumstance where a young person has completed treatment within eight months yet the treatment or detention order continues to be enforced until such time that a court revokes it. With that, I support the second reading of the bill.