Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The Attorney-General has just tabled a report in Parliament declaring the government's Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act [PDF]. The bill reclassifies ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, precursors used to manufacture P, as controlled drugs. So what's the human rights issue?

The problem is with the presumption of innocence. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a fundamental rule of our court system, affirmed by the BORA. But the Misuse of Drugs Act reverses this. If you have over a certain amount of a controlled drug, you are presumed to possess it for the purposes of supply, and are thus "guilty until proven innocent". This is neither just, nor consistent with the BORA.

The problem has been known for quite some time, ever since the Supreme Court ruling in R v. Hansen in 2007. And since then, every bill reclassifying a drug as a controlled substance with a supply limit has attracted a section 7 report. All of them have been ignored. Parliament seems quite happy to reverse the burden of proof, presume people guilty, and make them prove themselves innocent in order to appear "tough on crime". And no doubt, they'll do it again, sacrificing human rights to grub for votes from people who do not and never have given a shit about justice.

This erodes Parliament's moral authority and brings politicians as a class into contempt. After all, if they won't obey the rules they set for themselves, they're in no moral position to legislate for anyone else.