Opposition to Drug Supply Prohibition Order Pilot Scheme

(Debate, 18 November 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I strongly oppose the Drug Supply Prohibition Order Pilot Scheme Bill 2020, which represents another mistaken attempt to address drug use through law and order policies and the false belief that community safety relies on encroachment on human rights. Under the bill, police in the Bankstown, Coffs-Clarence, Hunter Valley and Orana Mid-Western commands will be able to seek a drugs supply prohibition order against any adult who has been convicted of a serious drug offence. The order would allow a police officer to stop, detain and search that person, their home and any vehicles they own or that are parked at their premises without a warrant.

These are extraordinary, excessive and unnecessary powers with few checks and balances to prevent misuse. Police can already search persons suspected of supplying illegal substances and their property by obtaining a warrant. The bill will not just capture hardcore criminals supplying trafficable quantities of drugs but also people who have been convicted of supplying smaller quantities. Someone who supplies drugs to fund a drug habit or addiction could be subject to an order, as could someone who supplied drugs taken recreationally. An example is a person who takes MDMA recreationally and was caught supplying five or six pills to their friends to take together at a music festival or party. If the persons in these cases continue to take drugs, police could make a case that they are likely to supply again. The offence could have occurred up to 10 years ago, including juvenile convictions when the person was a minor.

There is significant evidence that treating drug users as criminals adds harm, prevents people from getting help and it sends them down a path of criminality with impacts on health, welfare, income and employment. The trial will take place in three regional areas and Bankstown. I share concern that the powers, like many excessive police powers, will disproportionately impact Indigenous, marginalised and disadvantaged people. It is not enough to say that the powers will be used only on big time criminals when there is strong evidence that police use all the powers available to them in dealing with all crime. When drug sniffer dogs were introduced in public places in 2001 we were told it was a necessary tool to stop major dealers and traffickers, yet they have been used to facilitate stripsearching minors, young people, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for suspected personal use of drugs.

There are few safeguards for family members or others who live with the subject of an order and no obligation on police to demonstrate to the courts how an order will impact others. I am especially concerned about children and vulnerable family members including people who are frail or have a disability. There is no natural justice built into the bill. Police can conduct property searches when the subject of a drug supply prohibition order is not there and there is no requirement to provide notification. People subject to orders will have no right to request a revocation for the first six months of the order. I repeat that these orders can be used against people convicted of possessing smaller quantities. This bill is just another attempt to look tough on drugs without regard for human rights. Criminal involvement in the drugs trade is better addressed by taking a health approach to drug use, addressing the root causes of addiction, helping people to get support and legalising personal use as first steps. It is time that this Parliament matured on drugs policy, stopped criminalising the small-time players and started looking at evidence-based approaches. I oppose the bill.