Wednesday, 21 March 2007
Questions without Notice
Tough on Drugs Strategy
My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Johnston. Will the minister please inform the Senate of the progress of the government’s Tough on Drugs policy? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?
I thank Senator Payne for her question and acknowledge her longstanding interest in this very important subject, particularly in New South Wales. The Howard government remains strongly committed to the fight against illicit drugs. This is reflected in the fact that, since the inception of the Tough on Drugs strategy in 1997, Commonwealth law enforcement agencies have prevented more than 14 tonnes of illicit drugs from reaching Australian streets and causing further mayhem and destruction to our families.
I want to talk about methamphetamines, ice, MDMA, ecstasy, heroin, GHB and fantasy. These drugs are every mother’s, every father’s, every sister’s, every brother’s, every grandfather’s and every grandmother’s nightmare. In 2004 it was found that nearly one in three Australian teenagers between the ages of 14 and 19 had used illegal drugs of some type. The government’s Tough on Drugs approach has proved to be highly successful. There has been a significant reduction in the number of people using illicit drugs and far fewer people dying of drug overdoses.
I was asked about alternative policies. There is of course Labor’s ‘soft on drugs’ policy. ACTU President Sharan Burrow, a director of that well-known ALP front the Australia Institute, has criticised the federal government for opposing the implementation of prescription heroin trials and drug consumption rooms. Let me say that again: drug consumption rooms. We oppose drug consumption rooms.
On 19 June, the member for Denison, Mr Kerr SC, suggested that there be tests at nightspots to ensure that party drugs to be consumed there are safe. I say to the member and to the Labor Party opposite that there is no such thing as safe party drugs. New South Wales Greens Lee Rhiannon was quoted in the Daily Telegraph of 14 March as saying: ‘We acknowledge that there are ways to treat the link between strong drugs and crime, and it is not to lock people up,’ and Miss Lesa de Leau went on to say, ‘The benefits of not locking people up far outweigh the problem of drug use.’ We oppose that very strongly.
I have upset the opposition, but the fact is that the Greens in New South Wales have been embraced by the Labor Party in New South Wales because of a grubby preference deal. If this opposition had any integrity on drugs policy, they would banish the Greens to the bottom of the ballot paper. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Mr President, I do note that, at the beginning of the minister’s response, the clock was not set, and I am not sure whether the time allocation was therefore accurate. In relation to the minister’s response, particularly with regard to the results of interdiction efforts that have been made and the impact on young Australians, can the minister indicate why the government will not be adopting the alternative approaches to the ones that he has outlined?
The reason that the government will not adopt the sorts of policies that the Greens are promoting on drugs, and that the Labor Party is soft on and embraces through receiving Greens’ preferences, is that we are opposed to the use of these drugs.
The Greens’ policy says: ‘The regulation of personal use of currently illegal drugs should be moved outside the criminal framework.’ The Greens’ policy goes on to say: ‘Removing criminal sanctions for personal drug use is the policy.’ This is the policy that is embraced by the opposition. If there is any integrity in the opposition, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Rudd, will pick up the phone and say to Bob Brown, ‘We’re putting you last and we don’t want your preferences.’