Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


Illicit Drugs

7:25 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

Tonight I would like to speak pretty much off the cuff, but from the heart, in relation to an issue that has affected hundreds of thousands of Australians—Australia's ice epidemic; the scourge of crystal methamphetamine in our community. I want to congratulate and single out the work that Triple M in Adelaide has done in the Breakfast Show with Chris Dittmar—'Ditts'—and Mark Ricciuto—'Roo'. Last month they spent a whole week talking about ice. They heard from former addicts; they heard from families caught up in this; they heard about the lack of rehabilitation facilities. They heard from one woman who was involved in a bikie gang where, in just one hour in a meth lab, the bikies made $360,000 in income they could obtain from producing this evil substance. What they said was very important, because it was a matter of cutting through to an audience that needs to understand in very direct terms the impact of ice in the community.

I spoke to Chris Dittmar just a few minutes ago, and he said that they were inundated with calls when they ran the story—more so than on any other topic. They ran it every day for a week. They spoke to the people who were addicted and to the paramedics who were bashed and abused by ice addicts. There are parents who want to get their kids into rehabilitation and cannot do so. He also made the point that the response they had to their programs about the ice epidemic was unprecedented. Triple M in Adelaide did this. I urge the Austereo network to roll this out, to do what Chris Dittmar and Mark Ricciuto did, because it made the issue very real and direct for people who knew someone who was affected by and cut through in terms of getting through at a community level.

I met with one of the families who featured on the program. This family—and obviously I will not say anything to identify them—told me about how their son and brother became an ice addict and could not get help here in Australia. The help was not here. This family of ordinary means, a decent family just like millions of other families in this country, had to take out loans and had to sell assets, effectively, to fund the rehabilitation of their son and brother in Thailand, because in Chiang Mai they do have rehabilitation facilities that, by all accounts, are doing a good job. The question I ask is: why do we have that situation? Why do parents and loved ones have to take out loans to ensure that their loved one can have a fighting chance of beating the ice addiction? The government has set up a National Ice Taskforce. I note that Ken Lay, who is heading that task force, has not yet appeared on Triple M. If you are listening, Mr Lay, please go on air. These guys have done a great job and they need to hear from you sooner rather than later. This must be tackled as a matter of urgency. What Triple M did was very important in reaching a tipping point in the community, saying that this is something we must act on.

I am not being critical of the government's priorities. The government has clearly set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle the threat of terrorism overseas with ISIS, or Daesh. I do not have an issue with that, but we have a home-grown threat here in Australia, where there are thousands of people addicted to ice who cannot get help or rehabilitation. Rehabilitation services are just not there; they are not readily available. We need to tackle that. We need to look at the New Zealand approach to substance abuse, where an education campaign and increased rehabilitation halved the level of ice addiction in a relatively short time. We need to look at what they do in Sweden, where they have had mandatory rehabilitation for a number of years. It is tough love but it has worked, because their level of ice use is a fraction of what it is here in Australia. We need the resources to deal with that, because right now lives are being destroyed at a completely unacceptable rate

That is why I congratulate Triple M in Adelaide and the breakfast hosts Mark Ricciuto and Chris Dittmar for bringing this matter out into the community by making it accessible to so many South Australians. I congratulate them. I am looking forward to further programs they are doing on this issue. It makes the point that we need to do so much more to tackle ice. A task force is good, but we will need real action particularly in terms of rehabilitation services that are readily and easily accessible.


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