Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:35): I rise to make a contribution on the Statutes Amendment (Drug Offenders) Bill. I indicate that I will be supporting the government's bill, in particular the notion that if children are present in facilities where drugs are being manufactured that it will be deemed an aggravated offence and taken into consideration when sentencing occurs. I also rise to indicate that I will be supporting the measure for police to search persons or vehicles for illicit substances if that person or persons is seen entering or leaving a premises reasonably suspected of being used for the manufacture, distribution or storage of illicit substances or chemicals used for the manufacture of illicit substances.
Methamphetamine, commonly called ice, is having a devastating effect on our state, in particular regional communities. You just need to sit down—and as a local member, I have on numerous occasions—to speak to police officers who share a degree of frustration or to parents of their son or daughter who is addicted to ice or nurses or loved ones. They will talk about their frustration at this insidious drug. In particular, of a number of police officers I have spoken to one sticks out in my mind. He was a 30 or 40-year veteran of the police force who talked to me about his experience throughout his career of seeing many evolutions of drug taking, whether it is heroin, marijuana or cocaine, He said that he has seen it all before.
He pointed out that alcohol is still one of the most destructive substances in the community but he also pointed out that he has never seen the impact that ice has on people and, in his words, it is an epidemic. The cost to the community and the state is far greater than is ever reported. That is backed up by nurses who will talk about people they know who come into the emergency department under psychosis. They are violent, aggressive and irrational, and there is no comprehension of where they are or who they are lashing out at.
It is with this in mind that I want to support any measure that puts greater pressure on those who are manufacturing or acquiring the chemicals to manufacture this insidious drug to be searched, or those entering or exiting a property to be searched. I invited minister Malinauskas to Mount Gambier when he launched the Ice Taskforce or 'Stop the Hurt'. He was gracious enough to conduct a round table with representatives from my community. Sitting around that table, there was clear frustration at a lack of resources and a lack of state government focus on tackling this problem. This is not an emerging problem: it is here and now.
I commend the state government for the six rehabilitation beds that have been allocated to Mount Gambier. I am sure we will find in a very short period of time that those beds are fully occupied and that we will need to work as a community on how we continually address this issue of ice in the South-East. I think $3.6 million to increase access to treatment could easily be $36 million because, unfortunately, we are seeing an epidemic that needs to be stopped earlier. It is only when people get to a psychosis stage that intervention seems to be forthcoming. By then, the amount of money, time and effort required is far greater than if we addressed the problem at an earlier stage.
It is fine to say that we are going to put more and more into schools but, as a previous teacher, what you start to realise is that everybody looks at schools as the answer to society's problems. No longer are teachers concentrating on English and arithmetic, but they seem to be doing a whole plethora of societal interventions in that period of time. Most of it is doable, but you cannot just keep loading it on to schools to sort out society's problems.
In terms of the impact of ice on regional communities, I know a number of people whom I would call functioning ice users, but it seems as a drug to eventually catch up with all of them. People are losing their jobs, their families and their livelihoods because of this drug. With those thoughts in mind, I will be supporting this bill. If there is one message I can give, it is about the money allocated. It is okay to allocate $20 million for a new road or $160 million for a new piece of infrastructure, but if we start getting serious about tackling this issue earlier then that is the type of money that this will need. This money needs to be spent wisely because at the moment there is nowhere near enough resources being put into this insidious drug.
There are not too many people I know who become regular users of this drug who are able to kick the habit. It is a dire warning and I am very confident that we have a ticking time bomb in this state and in this country, where regular ice users are addicted to this stuff and, while they think they might have it under control, their lives are slowly unravelling, and it gets to a point where they cannot stop taking it. Intervention is certainly needed.
I have had numerous parents of young people in my office. Unfortunately, in most cases their loved ones have died because of substance abuse, whether it culminates in suicide, a road crash or an overdose. Invariably, from the parents I have been speaking to, it has resulted in death. They always talk about the early stages when they still recognised their loved one, but they get to a stage where eventually they do not recognise them: they are stealing from them, they are turning into basically wild animals—those are the words they use; I do not necessarily use those words. Early intervention is the key. If this goes some way to deterring people from going to drug houses then I fully support this measure. With those comments, I will conclude.