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Monday, 20 September 1999
Page: 9915

Mrs DRAPER (1:19 PM) —There is a great deal that the government is doing and there is a great deal that individuals can do to combat the problem of illicit drugs through the Tough on Drugs program. It is important to appreciate that the community and parents also have to take responsibility for the drug problem and for their children.

Members may be interested to know that in my electorate of Makin the local community has done a great deal of work to involve the police, service clubs, schools, local governments and state and federal community agencies with the government's Tough on Drugs program. Through 1997 and 1998, in cooperation with the local police, I have sponsored information evenings for parents of school age children to discuss the illicit drug problem. Also, in cooperation with Senator the Hon. Nick Minchin, I organised a Tough on Drugs competition for students to design a drug education project which could be integrated with existing school initiatives within the health curriculum. In other words, as a federal member of parliament I was interested in the viewpoints of our youth and what strategies they might employ to effectively communicate, to work collaboratively with and to educate people on the dangers of drug abuse and misuse.

The winning entry, from Salisbury East High School, was a board game called `Choices' in which players were rewarded for knowledge about the dangers associated with illicit drug use and were presented with hypothetical situations from which they could select a range of responses. These are some of the ways in which a member of parliament can work to promote a positive and proactive message on combating the drug problem within their local electorate. While these are the strategies that I employed, I am aware that there may be other ideas which could work even better in specific electorates.

I turn to the subject of what the government is able to do about illicit drugs. This is a matter to which the government has given a very high priority. This motion refers to there being no significant decline in the amount of illicit drugs entering Australia, even after a number of what it refers to as `high profile busts'. The members opposite must surely be aware that this is not the way in which this kind of thing works. The success that we have had in recent times will take time to have an effect on the ground. Any single bust will not significantly decrease the amount of drugs available on the streets. However, over time and with more of this kind of success, a message will be sent to the drug dealers and the drug barons that Australia is not as safe a place as it used to be for their dreadful business.

Perhaps even more important than these operations are the rehabilitation and education aspects of our Tough on Drugs program. Arising out of the Council of Australian Governments meeting earlier this year, the federal government is providing resources to support the states in setting up drug courts and similar arrangements whereby people who are brought before the courts on drug related offences will be given the option of entering a rehabilitation program rather than serving time for their offences. This is a very important and constructive way of helping people to break the cycle of drug dependency and crime—two things which we know have gone very closely hand in hand in the past. In our ongoing battles to make inroads into our crime problem and our drug problem, this kind of circuit breaker will prove to be a very powerful tool.

The government is also instituting a National Schools Drug Education Strategy. In May of this year that strategy was released, after being submitted to the government in March. In the interim period we had the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, which I have already referred to, in which $220 million in extra funding for the Tough on Drugs program was added to what had already been allocated, bringing the total federal government resources devoted to the Tough on Drugs program to over half a billion dollars. The goal of the National Schools Drug Education Strategy focuses on the prevention of drug use through enhanced educational programs and strong educational outcomes. This will be complemented by the initiatives announced by the Council of Australian Governments which focus on early intervention and referral. It is the first time we have had a national, coordinated approach to drug education in our schools, and it will form an important part of our Tough on Drugs strategy. In the short time that I have had available, I hope that I have been able to outline some of the positive initiatives that the government has undertaken in response to this very important issue.