More momentum for medicinal cannabis trial

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings says the community push for a trial into medicinal cannabis is getting stronger by the day.

“Despite a closed-minded approach from the State Government, Labor’s prepared to keep fighting on this issue,” Ms Giddings said.

“Petitions have been launched after an overwhelming push for change from the public.

“Brave Tasmanians like Natalie Daley, Jessica Rush and Nicole Cowles have put the issue firmly on the political agenda.

“By sharing their personal stories, the community is quickly becoming aware of the benefits associated with medicinal cannabis.

“Health Minister Michael Ferguson is standing in the way of public opinion on this issue.

“Hopefully the Legislative Council inquiry will further inform the debate and influence the Liberal Government’s rigid opinion.

“In the meantime, I’ll stand with those Tasmanians advocating for a change in policy.

“Medicinal cannabis presents significant health and economic benefits for Tasmania.

“We need a compassionate, common sense approach to the issue.”

Goodwin wasting valuable legal resources

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin needs to explain why she is wasting the time and resources of the Sentencing Advisory Council by requesting advice on an issue which she has already made up her mind.

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings said it was sheer arrogance from the Liberal Party to request advice it is likely to ignore on suspended sentences.

“Vanessa Goodwin is determined to scrap the option of suspended sentences, despite expert opinion from across the legal profession to the contrary,” Ms Giddings said.

“I have no confidence the Sentencing Advisory Council won’t simply be ignored should it provide advice that supports suspended sentencing in Tasmania.

“The Liberals should just be honest with Tasmanians and scrap this ridiculous idea that will only succeed in overcrowding the prisons, without making the community safer.”

Vanessa Goodwin suspends reality with sentencing policy

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin appears determined to lumber Tasmania with a more costly, less flexible legal system.

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings says the suggestion that scrapping suspended sentences would be cost neutral is plain wrong.

“If you do away with suspended sentences, it’s inevitable our prisons will become more crowded, just as they are right now in Victoria,” Ms Giddings said.

“Non-custodial alternatives to suspended sentences, like home detention, are good but ultimately expensive.

“Ms Goodwin is taking away the discretionary powers of the courts on the basis of some people’s perception and not fact.

“Now the Liberals are delaying the changes by effectively two years from the election, leaving very little time to implement the policy in this term of government.

“While the damage could be done in this term, it is the next government, which could be a Labor Government, that would have to pick up the pieces as the real costs hit the budget bottom line.

“The Attorney-General has admitted her Terms of Reference to the Sentencing Advisory Council is limited to only providing advice on other alternative sentencing options. She is not seeking any advice on the merits of keeping suspended sentences which are effective in preventing people re-offending.

“Instead it is likely more offenders will be sent to what’s often called the “University of Crime”, prison, as is occurring in Victoria.

“The arrogance of Ms Goodwin and the Liberal Government is extraordinary in ignoring good evidence based research that supports suspended sentences in favour of the politically more popular misconception of the benefits of abolishing them.”

Liberals fail cannabis test

The Liberal Government has put the “closed for business” sign up after just 112 days of being in Government.

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings said the decision by the Government to not support cannabis trials is a big slap in the face for cancer patients, farmers, potential manufacturing investors and Tasmanians looking for work.

“The State Government is adopting a closed minded attitude on an issue with strong community support,” Ms Giddings said.

“To not even entertain the idea of a trial is extremely short sighted from the Health Minister and his colleagues.

“Common sense suggests cannabis products should be available for strictly medicinal use, just like opiates.

“The Liberals are closing the door on what could potentially be a flourishing industry.

“Not to mention the human side of the debate, with Tasmanians requiring cannabis based products to alleviate suffering.

“It’s not too late for the Liberals to show some common sense when it comes to cannabis but based on what we’ve seen and hear so far, Labor holds out little hope.”

Ms Giddings said after days of sending out a different message every few hours when it comes to the issue of cannabis for medicinal use, it seems the right-wing forces within the Liberal Party have won the day and stopped a trial.

“The Liberals have been all over the place on this issue,” Ms Giddings said.

“First Matthew Groom poured cold water on the idea, then Michael Ferguson and Jeremy Rockliff appeared to be open to it, but now it’s being stomped on.

“Questions need to be asked.

“Why when we can grow opiates is security an issue for growing medicinal cannabis?

“Why are cancer patients being denied a drug that can help relieve their symptoms?

“Why is the Government knocking back a new crop that could benefit from the investment in irrigation that is opening up more land for agriculture?

“Why is the Government not trying to attract investment in pharmaceutical manufacturing of downstream processing of hemp oil?

“Why is the government knocking back potential jobs?

“Who is pulling the strings within the Liberal Party when it comes to the Liberals’ anti-cannabis for medicinal purposes stance?

“I am told that the cannabis that would be grown for medicinal purposes has a low level of the psychoactive ingredient THC and therefore unattractive to potential recreational drug users, therefore exactly what are the Liberals afraid of?”

Time for a new approach to the medicinal use of cannabis

Labor is calling for a new approach to the medicinal use of cannabis.

Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings said that it was time for mature discussions about the social and economic benefits of medicinal cannabis.

“It’s time for all sides of politics to get together with the experts and come up with a result that benefits patients and the state,” Ms Giddings said.

“An appropriately managed hemp industry could create jobs in Tasmania.

“Recent media reports have shone a light on the human stories of people who have been helped by medicinal cannabis.

“Medicinal cannabis could be controlled in the same way opiate-based drugs are already administered.

“I know people in our community who would benefit from having access to prescribed cannabis for their medical condition.”

Ms Giddings said Tasmania has seen the economic benefits of the poppy industry for many years.

“It’s time to investigate the possibility of Tasmania also moving into growing hemp for medicinal purposes.”

Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the issue was not about legalising the drug or about smoking marijuana for pain relief.

“It is about providing doctors with access to a drug that can bring pain relief and ease suffering for patients.” Ms White said.

Dark Side to Libs protest Legislation

Labor MPs have vowed to spend the parliamentary break informing Tasmanians of the dark side to the Liberals’ protest legislation.

“The Government guillotined debate yesterday but it is important that Tasmanians are informed about just how far-reaching this legislation goes,” Shadow Attorney-General Lara Giddings said.

“These truly are draconian measures.

“There was no consultation whatsoever with anyone.

“The business and law communities have been left out in the cold.

“Paul Harriss wants to paint the picture of this debate being about dreadlocked protesters – it’s not. It’s about everyday mums and dads who will from time to time want to have their voice heard on issues.

“Tasmanians will be shocked that buried in this proposed law is that police would have the power to arrest people based solely on a suspicion of intent to protest.

“That could mean something as simple as a post or RSVP on social media could see someone behind bars.”

Shadow IT and Innovation Minister Madeleine Ogilvie said the bill is entirely silent about digital and on-line protests.

“It is silent as to impacts on media coverage of protest activity and those who might be caught in the net,” Ms Ogilvie said.

Ms Ogilvie, who is also the Shadow Small Business Minister, said a secure commercial environment for business in Tasmania could be balanced to also protect freedom of assembly.

“We must get this bill right,” Ms Ogilvie said.

“Labor has tried to be constructive on this bill yesterday but was shut down.

“After rushing through the lower house, the government must now convince Tasmanians, as well as the Legislative Council, of the bill’s merits.

“From any fair-minded reading there are very few.”

Planning appointment process doesn’t add up

Premier Will Hodgman continues to dig himself further into a hole on his version of events that led to the appointment of the Executive Commissioner of the Planning Reform Taskforce, Shadow Attorney General Lara Giddings said today.

“Mr Hodgman claims the Executive Commissioner was appointed from the pool of 71 applicants for a general position of the Planning Reform Taskforce,” Ms Giddings said.

“He could not answer why neither the role of Executive Commissioner, nor the six-figure salary for the Executive Commissioner was specifically advertised.

“He could not say when a position description of the Commissioner had been finalised and refused to immediately table it.

“He could not point to which legislation the Commissioner was employed under, especially in light of the Justice Department having no record of an appointment.

“There are far too many unanswered questions for any Tasmanian to be comfortable that this was not merely a political appointment.”