Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 10:31 ): I am very pleased to speak on the Controlled Substances (Youth Treatment Orders) Amendment Bill. On a number of occasions, I have identified to this house my utter abhorrence at the scourge that drugs wreak on our young people. We have seen in recent months reams of evidence about the particular impact of ice in so many of our communities.
Crystal methamphetamine, base, speed, amphetamines—all these stimulants are taken by so many of our young people in recreational situations, thinking they will have no effect on their long-term wellbeing when the reality is it destroys lives. People get addicted to these drugs without even realising what is going on.
People under the age of 18 in particular are at a stage where their brains have not developed and so are at a point where, even without the introduction of amphetamines, their risk-taking behaviours are higher and their understanding of consequences is lower. Introducing drugs like ice into the situation puts them at enormous risk. It destroys long-term cognitive function. It enormously impacts on their lives and physiology in the long term and, in the immediate term, on their families.
Parents come to a situation where they do not even understand the child in front of them because they are so changed by the stimulants and drugs they are on. There is the impact of course on communities where people are so often led to engage in crimes or other risk-taking behaviours with disastrous impacts on those communities.
Undertaking every action we can to ensure that our young people are not under the sway of the drugs that are destroying their lives is an absolute priority for this parliament and a priority that this party, the Liberal Party, has identified for a great many years because ice is not that new a phenomenon. I remember working with the Australian National Council on Drugs when I was working with the federal government and going to meetings with the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy in 2006 and 2007, as we were identifying a national ice strategy.
This is something that the Howard government, in its Tough on Drugs campaign, took very seriously, occasionally possibly even with support from some wise attorneys-general around the country. However, that has not always been the case. I will be appalled if the Labor Party votes against this bill, which will go so far towards ensuring that young people are not left behind and left to the control of these drugs.
There has been some suggestion that youth treatment orders are inappropriate, but the fact is that we have research. The Australian National Council on Drugs published research in 2006, so there is long-established research that identifies that mandatory treatment orders can be as effective as voluntary treatment orders. It is a fallacy to suggest otherwise, particularly for a young person. We must take every opportunity to get them off drugs.
Some people have said this bill is harsh on young people. I say that sometimes you have to provide tough love and sometimes you have to do what is in the best interests of the child. If this measure is what it is going to take to get that young person off drugs, then that is absolutely to be commended. I commend the shadow attorney-general for introducing it to the parliament. I think the Liberal Party is on the right track as we seek to get our young people off drugs.
It is up to the Labor Party—the government—to show it is not a soft touch on drugs to ensure that our young people have the best opportunities in life and that our communities are safe from the harm that these drugs wreak.