Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I would like to speak to the motion, and I fully support it. There is a significant joint committee inquiry into drug regulation and drug policy being held right now. It is due to report in March. It is looking at the issue that this bill goes straight to, which is synthetic substances and in particular psychoactive substances. I might add that that committee has also travelled overseas, has taken extensive expert evidence and has conducted numerous public hearings on this subject. Why would we not wait to see the findings of that committee and that committee’s report before moving ahead — one would say pre-emptively — on this legislation? I think this is a most sensible motion, and I fully support it.
Clause 4: Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I refer to the definitions and in particular the definition for ‘psychoactive effect’ on line 18. The definition employs the phrase ‘significant disturbance in, or significant change to’. I assume that the word ‘significant’ has its ordinary meaning?
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Minister. Just for the sake of clarity, is that the ordinary meaning as defined in the Oxford dictionary?
Ms PATTEN — Does it follow that a ‘disturbance in … or … change to, motor function, thinking, behaviour, perception, awareness or mood’ that is less than a significant disturbance or change is not a psychoactive effect for the purposes of this legislation?
Ms PATTEN — I am not aware of what the New South Wales definition is. In other words, what you are saying is that it does not make unlawful a product that causes a disturbance or change to motor function, thinking, behaviour, perception, awareness or mood so long as that disturbance or change is not significant?
Ms PATTEN — Just to clarify that: two glasses of wine not exceeding .05, for example, may cause a change in a person’s motor function, but not such a significant change as to impair a person’s ability to drive. In this way we already permit an effect, but not a significant effect upon motor function, in our existing driving laws. Is that correct?
Ms PATTEN — Just to go back, what we were talking about was a significant effect. I would obviously agree with you that most food does not have a significant effect. I go back to my analogy of two glasses of wine, which is less than .05, which is not seen as impairing a driver. I am just trying to clarify whether that level of effect would be considered significant or not.
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Minister. In likening then the threshold in this bill to the Road Safety Act, being another act of this Parliament, would you say that a significant disturbance or change threshold is like the threshold for ‘impaired’ in section 49 of the Road Safety Act?
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Minister. I find that curious, given that the definition in the legislation is ‘the stimulation or depression of the person’s central nervous system resulting in a significant change to motor function, thinking, behaviour, perception, awareness or mood’. I would have to suggest that was of a person; that is not actually pertaining to the drug. In my understanding it says that this is about having a significant disturbance or a significant change to behaviour, perception, awareness or mood, not that it is a significant drug. I do not see how this cannot pertain to the person.
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Minister, for that clarification. Rather than a blood alcohol rating I was getting to the point of likening the threshold to ‘impaired’, as in section 49 of the Road Safety Act. That does not necessarily relate to blood alcohol; that actually relates to someone being impaired. A judge could find impairment due to lack of sleep. There could be a whole range of reasons that you were impaired in your driving. It does not purely refer to blood alcohol ratings. I guess I am just trying to get an idea of where ‘significant’ stands in relation to other legislation, such as the Road Safety Act and the use of the word ‘impaired’.
Ms PATTEN — Minister, in relation to clause 8, I am just wondering if you can confirm that it is not an offence to possess a psychoactive substance under that part or otherwise in the act other than for the purposes of production, sale or supply.
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Minister. So the possession of a psychoactive substance for personal use is not an offence. Can the minister confirm that it is not an offence to consume a psychoactive substance under that part or otherwise in the act?
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Minister. That does clarify it. I just want to confirm that, yes, if a drug is already listed, then of course it is already illegal to possess and use, but presuming that the psychoactive substance is not listed in the schedules, then there is no offence to consume or possess the substance under this part or otherwise in the act.
Ms PATTEN — Regarding clauses 13 to 15 around search, seizure and forfeiture, I am just wondering if I can get agreement from you about the assessment of the Minister for Police, Ms Neville, in her statement of compatibility that these new powers do not limit section 20, which is property rights, of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
Ms PATTEN — Just to confirm, what I was asking was whether you agreed with the assessment of the minister in her statement of compatibility that these new powers do not limit section 20 of the charter.
Ms PATTEN — It would have been unusual otherwise. So is it correct that the government does not intend to issue an override declaration with respect to those clauses of the charter?
Ms PATTEN — Thank you, Minister, for clarifying why you would not consider a low-risk system, such as New Zealand. I know I am probably stating the obvious, but when you say that you will not accept any low-risk harm for psychoactive substances, of course we do with tobacco and alcohol, both being psychoactive substances and both actually causing more harm than any other psychoactive drug put together.
Following on from Ms Hartland’s question, my question is around this continuing scheduling of substances, which we know just creates new substances. This is happening not just in Victoria and in Australia; it is happening internationally. As one product is scheduled, a new product comes up, and I appreciate that this bill is effectively attempting to change that. Has any consideration been given to the fact that these substances are becoming more dangerous and are actually becoming more experimental as this list grows longer? So as you ban another one, has there been any consideration that this is actually leading to more dangerous drugs being introduced onto the market?