Those who claim first drug offenders should be let off with a caution because they are just experimenting ignore the tragic reality that a first dose can be just as lethal as a second or a 30th, Piers Akerman writes.
The debate on drug reform in NSW has exposed the deep ideological divisions in Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Cabinet between those possessed of commonsense and the wishy-hopey fantasists.
The latter ignore reality and blindly follow the Panglossian notion that all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.
Out-of-touch NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman is the foremost proponent of this mindless optimism with his wacky proposal that drug law offenders be given three warnings before being prosecuted.
It goes without saying that the ultra-Green Environment Minister Matt Kean, who is definitely in the wrong political party, as well as the other leading Cabinet wet, Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres, also supported this de facto decriminalisation of the state’s drug laws.
These members of the so-called moderate faction in the NSW Liberal Party not only put at risk the lives of the young and vulnerable with their delusional approach to drug policy but they also imperil the party itself by pushing reforms that are totally at odds with the party’s core supporters.
Opposing the kumbaya crowd’s starry-eyed approach to illicit drug use, fortunately, is Police Minister David Elliott, and he is supported by Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
Mr Elliott is not rejecting reform but he wants to see any change in the penalty for drug use attached to a compulsion for rehabilitation and he wouldn’t object to a further discounting of penalties if a first-time offender provides information about drug pushers and others higher up the supply chain.
This option, he believes, should only be available to first-timers because there can be no excuse for repeat offenders.
Those who claim first offenders should be let off with a caution because they are just experimenting ignore the tragic reality that a first dose of a so-called party drug can be just as lethal as a second or a 30th.
It’s the luck of the draw when it comes down to junk made in an illicit backyard garage by amateur chemists.
Just ask Tony Wood, the father of Anna Wood, who was killed when as a 15-year-old, she took her first and final fatal ecstasy tablet at a rave party 25 years ago. She died of hypoxic encephalopathy, following acute water intoxication secondary to ingestion of MDMA.
Mr Elliott is not lacking in compassion. Under his proposal, those offenders willing to undergo rehabilitation will be treated compassionately and assisted in their recovery.
Commissioner Fuller proposed to the state’s government commission into ice that drug offenders would avoid court but would receive a fine and be sent to mandatory health and education programs.
The Criminal Infringement Notice (CIN) which was introduced last year, has been effective he suggests and it is certainly a tougher measure than the Attorney-General’s tepid three strikes warning plan.
The CIN trial introduced at music festivals, saw 336 fines issued at 25 events, with 97 per cent of them for MDMA possession.
A poll of Daily Telegraph readers showed 75 per cent support for fines rather than warnings and therein lies the lesson that Mr Speakman, Mr Kean and Mr Ayres and others of their ilk ignore at their peril.
The community, particularly those in the western suburbs, don’t want weaker drug laws.
The push for softer laws comes from the inner-city and the north shore and eastern suburbs where the voters are just as likely to vote Green or for wacky independents like Zali Steggall as they are for Liberals.
It is a measure of the conservatism of the western suburbs where the Liberals hold former Labor seats, that Camden is now a safer seat for the Liberals than the north shore.
The mouthy moderates whose electorates lie on the north shore and in the eastern suburbs are now at greater risk of losing their seats because of their wimpish observance of politically correct and ineffectual policies than those who hold seats in traditional Labor areas like Parramatta, Riverstone and Kellyville.
Ms Berejiklian has had her moderate “greyhound” moments when she has failed to comprehend the concerns of the middle-class and working-class Liberal supporters.
She can’t afford more missteps such as trying to force her ill-judged koala strategy on farmers still struggling to recover from drought and bushfires.
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