It gives me great pleasure to rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment Bill 2012. As can be seen from the provisions of this bill and the important manner in which they will continue to protect the public, we must all wage an ongoing battle against those who seek to employ their innovation and talents to avoid existing laws and regulations and to create and peddle products which, as is demonstrated in the range of drugs this bill covers, have as their intent very destructive side effects for those who use them.

When we look at the range of substances the bill covers — five synthetic stimulants and eight synthetic cannabinoids — we can see that the innovation of those who seek to peddle these substances is ongoing. That is why this bill is important and why we on this side will not be opposing it.

Given the discussion around drugs and drug offences, it is also timely to note that it is disappointing, indeed it is devastating, that we are having this debate in the context of an increase in drug offences in this state in the order of close to 23 per cent. This is the first time in a decade that we have seen such an increase, which demonstrates that the problem is getting worse under this government, and that is deeply disturbing for the Victorian community. It is particularly deeply disturbing when, as I said, we look at some of the drugs that this bill covers. The five synthetic stimulants that the bill deals with range from 4-MMC, also known as meow meow, to the industrial chemicals 1,4-BD and GBL.

If we look at some of the impacts of those drugs we can see that recent studies conducted by the University of Tasmania on the use of 4-MMC found in a survey of ecstasy users that 21 per cent of those surveyed had used 4-MMC, as this drug has similar effects to MDMA, amphetamines and cocaine. We know that because it has similar side effects some of the damaging impacts it can have on users relate to concentration and memory, hallucinations and delusions, heart rate and breathing difficulties, and paranoia and depression. Clearly these side effects are compounded with greater use of the drug. In fact 4-MMC has been implicated in the deaths of young people in the USA, the UK and Sweden, and therefore it is absolutely appropriate that it comes under the umbrella of this particular legislation.

MDPV produces similar effects to methylamphetamine and cocaine. Hypertension, depression, lethargy and anxiety are all side effects experienced by the users of this drug.

Moving on to BZP, we know that use of this drug can result in toxic seizures. It was made illegal in Victoria in 2006 and in New Zealand in 2008. This bill makes illegal other analogous forms of this drug, which is particularly important.

The use of industrial chemicals in illicit drugs is particularly disturbing when you think that the ingredients in industrial solvents and other synthetic products — for example, those used in the production of spandex — are then peddled to people in different forms to produce a range of side effects. It is appropriate that this bill covers these substances because there is nothing more confronting than thinking that people in our community, particularly children, may be subjected to these sorts of chemicals, which are promoted as party drugs or a party alternative. The damage done to young and healthy bodies and minds by these drugs is immeasurable.

GBL is commonly used as superglue, paint remover and stain remover, and it is also peddled to people as a party drug. We know that when consumed excessively it can cause coma and death and that it is a drug of severe dependence. It is absolutely appropriate that the bill covers products that mimic GHB and replicate its effects. We know that not only are those side effects very damaging to users but such drugs are also employed in heinous crimes of date rape. Therefore we certainly support the inclusion of synthetic substances that mimic GHB, a drug that has caused significant damage to the health and safety of its users as well as that of young women who have been subjected to date rape incidents involving these drugs.

Turning to cannabinoids, the bill is designed to cover synthetic substances that seek to replicate the side effects of other drugs, and we support that move.

As I stated at the outset, it is important to consider the array of synthetic substances that this bill covers because there are insidious members of our community who seek to approach and exploit people, particularly the young and the vulnerable, and they clearly employ some sophisticated forensic and chemical analyses to come up with these sorts of drugs.

It is imperative that as a community we respond to and stay abreast of these issues. That is why it is particularly significant that governments continue to take the strong advice of law enforcement agencies — the police and the intelligence units they are in — in relation to current trends in what is happening out there and their impacts. It is a complex exercise that involves intelligence officers on the ground, forensic capacity and analysis, and an understanding of the health impacts. A broad range of people need to provide that advice.

I reiterate the comments made by the opposition’s lead speaker when he touched upon the cuts in funding to Victoria Police to the tune of $65 million. That will have an impact on these things, and we are very concerned about that.

As I said, we are debating this bill in the context of a significant increase in all aspects of drug crime, including drug pushing and the manufacture of drugs. That is of deep concern to all of us in this house. These additional prohibited categories of drugs are an important part of the armour that will allow Victoria Police and the justice system to deal with these insidious issues. However, the opposition registers its deep concern that for the first time in a decade the crime rate is going north in a very significant way.

Given these ongoing issues and the expanding class of drugs that form such a blight on the community, we call on the government to deeply consider its cuts to funding for the justice system.

Hansard, 2013