ENTERTAINMENT

Michaelia Cash’s warning that ACT drug decriminalisation laws would make Canberra the ‘drug capital’ of Australia is shot down in Senate

A Liberal Senator has painted an ominous picture of what decriminalisation of drug use could mean for Canberra, warning the ACT will become Australia’s ‘drug capital’ with bikies taking over and people flocking down the highway for the ‘party lifestyle’.

Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash made the claims on Thursday as she sought to negate the territory’s decriminalisation law with a private Senator’s bill, but it was rejected by Labor and the Greens. 

Small quantities of a range of drugs such as heroin, ice, cocaine, MDMA and psychedelics have been decriminalised in the ACT, allowing police to issue a fine instead of putting users through the criminal justice system. 

Senator Cash told the Senate the Territory would become a magnet for drug tourists travelling down the Hume Highway ‘hoping to experience the ACT’s party lifestyle’.

This would lead to an increase in addiction, crime and overdoses, she said.

Shadow Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has painted a dark picture of what Canberra could become under drug decriminalisation laws

Shadow Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has painted a dark picture of what Canberra could become under drug decriminalisation laws

‘As the (Australian Federal Police) deputy commissioner … has said, when police see someone doing a line of coke – and guess what, you can now do about 15 lines – historically they may have intervened, they’re probably not going to now.’

Senator Cash also claimed the new laws could reach beyond Australia’s shores. 

‘So the question has therefore been raised as a result of these ACT laws, can Australian citizens now carry ice on ships in international waters facing nothing more [than the] threat of a $100 fine?’ Senator Cash told the Senate.

‘Well, I would have thought before you decriminalise you actually want to know the answer to that. 

‘Have [ACT Chief Minister] Andrew Barr and [ACT Minister for Health] Rachel Stephen-Smith now unwittingly created a cruise ship drug charter?

‘I guess I would have thought you wanted the answer to that before you went down this path. What an absolutely absurd situation.’

ACT Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who spearheaded the decriminalisation laws, said there was no evidence the reforms would lead to the ‘outlandish claims the Liberals are spouting about drug tourism’.

ACT Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who spearheaded the decriminalisation laws, said there was no evidence the reforms would lead to the 'outlandish claims the Liberals are spouting about drug tourism' (stock image)

ACT Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, who spearheaded the decriminalisation laws, said there was no evidence the reforms would lead to the ‘outlandish claims the Liberals are spouting about drug tourism’ (stock image)

‘If Liberal politicians poked their head out of Parliament House, they would see first-hand the amazing harm reduction work already underway in the ACT,’ he told AAP.

‘My advice to holidaymakers seeking to avoid unsociable elements when visiting Canberra is to avoid federal sitting weeks.’

Greens senator David Shoebridge reiterated the laws decriminalised use, while not legalising it.

‘Instead of treating people who have addiction problems as criminals and putting them into jail – losing their job and their hope and their future and driving them down further pathways towards addiction – they will treat it as a health issue.’

ACT independent senator David Pocock said the shadow attorney-general’s push to overturn a law enacted by a democratically elected Legislative Assembly ‘can be seen no other way than trying to erode self-government in our territory’.

All sides of ACT politics have called on the federal Coalition not to overrule its laws.

‘It is a clear unmistakable breach of our territory rights,’ he said, adding the coalition needed to respect the principles of democracy.

Drug policy should be the focus, he said, as he pointed to direct alcohol-related deaths rising year on year and legal pharmaceuticals accounting for the vast amount of opioid-induced deaths.

Small quantities of illegal drugs such as cocaine have been decriminalised in the ACT

Small quantities of illegal drugs such as cocaine have been decriminalised in the ACT

‘There are clear issues across the nation when it comes to the supply of drugs and demand for drugs as well as issues with our systems to treat people with addictions and get them healthy,’ Senator Pocock said.

The senator’s private bill was defeated 33 votes to 27.

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