Is Gladys’ delaying Cabinet drug debate?

 

Ministers in the Berejiklian government were speculating on Sunday night whether the Premier was seeking to delay a final position on the controversial proposal to water down penalties for drug possession to avoid further backlash.

It comes after the proposal was not listed on the agenda for Monday's cabinet meeting.

Ministers had expected the issue would come back to the cabinet on Monday before a position was taken to the party room next year.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman at a press conference at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw
Attorney-General Mark Speakman at a press conference at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

But following outcry over the "three strikes" proposal that would see drug users face a criminal penalty only for their fourth drug possession offence, ministers were speculating that the issue had been delayed to avoid a messy fight over the matter.

Ministers were drastically split over the issue following the last cabinet meeting. Ahead of Monday's meeting, some had hoped a compromise position would be reached, strengthening penalties from Attorney-General Mark Speakman's original proposal.

Giving drug users a fine for their first possession offence rather than a warning was one suggestion mooted.

The Daily Telegraph has been told that there had been discussion around imposing fines of up to $1000 for initial offences. However, others had little discussion about the proposed reforms ahead of it going back to cabinet.

There is speculation that Gladys Berejiklian could be delaying the matter to allow consultation of backbenchers on the issue. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard
There is speculation that Gladys Berejiklian could be delaying the matter to allow consultation of backbenchers on the issue. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard

Ministers were speculating on Monday night that by not listing the matter on the cabinet agenda, Premier Gladys Berejiklian may have wished to delay a final decision until backbenchers had been consulted on the proposals.

While not listed as a specific item on the agenda, changes to drug possession penalties could still be brought up during a discussion of political issues in cabinet.

Any proposal which could be seen to weaken penalties for drug possession threatens to cause a rift in the party, with Ms Berejiklian already facing pressure following her explosive evidence to ICAC.

Some ministers expressed support of Police Commissioner Mick Fuller's position, outlined to the Special Commission of Inquiry into ice.

That would see users face a fine and mandatory health and education programs but spared a court appearance.

Some MPs have expressed support for NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller’s plan for fines and mandatory health and education programs. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw
Some MPs have expressed support for NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller’s plan for fines and mandatory health and education programs. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

Ministers have expressed frustrations with the way the proposals have been handled by the Attorney-General.

A proposal from independent MP Alex Greenwich to introduce a bill legalising assisted dying is also threatening to stoke Liberal divisions and leadership tensions. Mr Greenwich wants to introduce a bill to parliament to legalise assisted dying next year.

Liberal backbenchers want the Premier to propose that the party takes a position to vote against the bill.

The Liberal party traditionally allows MPs a conscience vote on matters like euthanasia, but on Monday night MPs said allowing members to vote on their conscience threatened to tear the party apart and could threaten Ms Berejiklian's leadership.

Originally published as Is Gladys' delaying Cabinet drug debate?



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