Tuesday 13 August 2019

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Pill Testing - Tasmanian Festivals and Events


Mr FINCH (Rosevears)- Mr Acting President, I did not expect to speak but do so now after listening to the member for Murchison and hearing what the Government has had to say, also the long contribution by the member for Huon.  So many questions.  As the member for Huon raised, there are so many questions about this issue.

If you consider what the member for Murchison put forward in the motion, how can anyone really disagree with that?  It is a great signal.  It is really good for us to be talking about this and having it on the agenda to discuss.  What parent out there whose children go to music festivals is not concerned about what might occur there, that distant thought of will they make it home safely?

They want legislators like us, the Government and the police to consider carefully this aspect of life in Australia:  are we doing all we can do to protect our children and the future generations?  My children are through the phase, although they tell me pill popping is going on in the community at 100 kilometres per hour.  It is the grandchildren who now are at the front of my mind.  What are they going to confront?  If we do not start the work now on this issue, will it become rampant?  Will it get out of control?  By the time they start going to music festivals or living their lives, what influences will there be on their lives?  Will we look back and say, 'We should have done something; we should have talked about that and taken action'?

I was comforted by what the Leader said about the concern the Government is showing.  The Government is not going to ignore this.  Labor, when and if they get into government, will not ignore it either because it is a social issue we have to confront and work on.

It is like smoking.  You might not have the magic wand.  You might not be able to solve it, but you have to keep working at it incrementally.  You have to try to break these things down.  The Government is not shirking from this - it is being cautious.  Some would say overcautious.  It has to make sure it does not make mistakes with it.

All those questions asked by the member for Huon are right.

Ms Forrest - I addressed a lot of the questions he raised in my contribution. 

Mr FINCH - What you contributed was exemplary.  We were able to follow it, we got good advice from it, a good understanding of what is going on.  The motion addresses that.  It acknowledges pill testing is a health-related matter.  How can you query that? 

It acknowledges that pill testing is an evidence-based health service that reduces the risk of illicit drug harm at music festivals. Tick.

It acknowledges that pill testing services do not endorse or provide advice on the safety of illicit drug use.  Tick.

It acknowledges the successful results of the two trials in the ACT.  It is being disputed because not enough evidence has come out of those, but certain observations have been made that were positive.

Point (5) of the motion lists the organisations and national bodies that support pill testing.  Far out - what a line-up of organisations have put their names, I assume, to this motion and have agreed that this should occur.  That is very compelling.

Point (6) notes that despite strong support for the introduction of pill testing across the Tasmanian community, the Government continues to resist reviewing the evidence.  That is what I would point out.  That is what the Government has pointed out.  It is all about caution.  Tick.

The motion recognises the need for the Department of Health to prepare information and education materials.  The Department of Health would be as concerned about this as anybody in the community.  The Health department, and the Government generally, would be concerned about how we can get at this issue.  What is our best course of action?  It is not an easy fix. 

The motion calls on the Government to commence the necessary steps to explore how a trial of pill testing could occur during this summer festival season.  I cannot see how they would not have their people there to see what goes on.  They might not do pill testing, but I cannot see that they would not be observing what goes on at these festivals, to make sure they are getting a good handle on this problem.

I do not know the quote from the police commissioner, Mr Hine, that the member for Murchison, when you interjected on the member for Huon -

Ms Forrest - The honourable Leader spoke to it.  The Leader used it.

Mr FINCH - When the honourable Leader mentioned it, and you said 'read the whole quote'.  I have a lot of admiration for the commissioner.  He would be as concerned as any parent and any grandparent to try to get the best outcome.  He does not want to criminalise all the young people in our community, giving them a police record that means they cannot travel overseas and cannot get a job.  He is not silly.  He is not going to say, 'We must have law and order here and mandatory sentencing at the same time'.  I jest.  Apologies.

He would want to find solutions.  He will be observing this.  He will have his own people there watching.  The drug squad and others will be there to try to find how we can best deal with this situation. 

I think you might have said, honourable Leader, that we might be served better by educating our young people. 

I am not going to bang on about this much now, but if we get around to a cigarette debate, I will talk about the times I have been to the Education minister to push the notion of life education.  We are the only state in Australia that does not have it.  We had it at one stage, unsuccessfully.  If we are looking for ways to empower our children to make proper decisions, we must give them the wherewithal to make decisions, whether for ill or good.  At least we can say, as legislators, as members of parliament, that we have given them the opportunity by introducing life education in schools and at kindergarten.  That is where it starts, not at high school, or later on in life, or when they commit their first offence and they have to be counselled.  Give them the equipment, the knowledge and the tools at kindergarten.  That is what life education does.  It goes with them incrementally through their years of schooling and they develop more interest in the subject. 

The classic example, when we get around to smoking, member for Windermere, is the Bob Newhart comedy skit they use in life education.  Sir Walter Raleigh returns from the provinces and he is either speaking to Elizabeth I, or whoever was controlling England, and he is trying to explain how he found this new thing called 'tobacco'.  The person says, 'Well, what do you do with it?'  He replied, 'You dry it out and then you crush it up and roll it up in a piece of paper'.  'Oh, that is good, what do you do then?'  'Well, you put it in your mouth.'  'And then what?'  'Then you light it'.  'Yes, then what do you do with it?'  'You breathe it in.'  'Does that not make you cough?'  'Oh, yes, sure, it makes you really cough.' 

Anyway, I will get the script.  Life education used that example when trying to show kids what this nicotine habit is all about.  Life education helps kids during the junior years, when their peers are trying to influence them to head down a path that they should not go, at least to have the knowledge of how to make a proper decision about what the impact of this is and what it will mean for their lives.  They will have been taught that in schools at that really impressionable age.  

I support this motion.  We need to discuss this matter.  The member for Murchison who brought it forward has put some work into it. I salute that.  I am happy to support the motion.  I think it is on the right track.  We may not get the result that the member is after from the Government, but it is a terrific signal.