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Liberals' Drug Treatment Under-Funding Written into Law

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Tags: Justice, Courts, Corrections, Recidivism, Supreme Court

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Justice spokesperson

The Sentencing Amendment Bill debated in Parliament expands the power to make Drug Treatment Orders to the Supreme Court. Given the dramatic rise in ice use and its associated problems, it's a welcome tool.

It enables courts to order people into treatment, rather than expose them to the risk of reoffending and drug abuse through a gaol sentence.

In an extraordinary break from sentencing law tradition, the Liberals have written their lack of commitment to properly funding Drug Treatment Orders into the Bill itself.

If it passes the Upper House, the Sentencing Amendment Bill will prevent magistrates and judges from ordering a person to undertake drug treatment if they think that there won’t be enough staff or resources for their treatment and supervision.

The Greens tabled an amendment to remove the clause which would prevent magistrates from ordering an offender to undergo drug treatment if there was not enough money to run the programs. Unfortunately, our amendment was voted down by the Liberals.

This may well prove to be a rod for the government’s back. Tasmanians would be able to see clearly, from the sentencing judgements, when Drug Treatment Orders are withheld as a sentencing option because there’s not enough funding available.

Drug Treatment Orders can save significant sums of public money, compared with imprisonment. Underfunding Drug Treatment Orders, and capping the number of people that can access them, is a false economy.

Should this Bill pass the Upper House, the responsibility will be on the Attorney-General to make sure there is money in the Budget to fund their policies appropriately in the interests of the community.