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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 301

Mr HICKS(7.12) —Recently the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer), who is also the shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs, and I travelled to Thailand. Madam Speaker, Thailand, as you know, is a wonderful country but it has a number of problems. While we were there we had a look at a number of the Australian aid programs in Thailand. We inspected the Thai-Burma railway-the railway on which so many Australians died during the Second World War-and a number of other interesting projects.

I want to speak tonight about the drug problem in Thailand and the part that Australia is playing to try to overcome the problem in that nation. We travelled to the north of Thailand. In Bangkok we had the opportunity to speak with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board. Madam Speaker, as you would know, the National Party of Australia in particular and the Liberal Party of Australia are very concerned about the drug problem in Australia. One of my colleagues in the National Party, the honourable member for Gilmore (Mr Sharp), heads the coalition drug investigation committee. He is doing a tremendous job there. The honourable member for Farrer and I had interviews with a number of people on the ONCB, one being Police Major-General Koson Limpichart. He gave us a very intensive briefing on what is happening in that part of the world.

As most honourable members would know, one of the major drug producing areas in the world, particularly of the opium poppy, is the Golden Triangle, which takes in northern Thailand, Laos and Burma. I suppose it is called the Golden Triangle because of the money that is made by some people from the drugs that come from that area. One of the works being undertaken by the Thai Government in co-operation with Canada, New Zealand, a number of other countries and the United Nations is trying to help the northern hill tribes to develop other crops such as coffee, tomatoes, corn, potatoes and lettuce to try to give them an income to replace the income from the opium poppy. This process takes a number of years and, of course, Thailand needs a great deal of support. As we spoke to the ONCB it became clear that the Office and the Thai Government are very grateful to the Australian Government. The Thailand Narcotics Annual Report of 1985 states:

As the achievement of the narcotics control work largely depends upon adequate and accurate data, a computer has been brought into use since 1983 with the assistance of the Australian Government. The ONCB Computer Centre was officially inaugurated by the Australian Foreign Minister and the Thai Deputy Foreign Minister on July 31, 1984. During 1985, development on various systems of narcotics control work, including the ONCB administrative work, was done. Some systems were completely developed and some were in the process.

The report then lists the systems being put on to the computer. We were told while we were there that a number of drug runners coming into Australia were caught as a result of this computer system being installed. It has a number of systems in it, including immigration and passport systems and it can cross-check people coming into and going out of Thailand. The problem is that although Australia has donated several million dollars to this project, which is of great assistance not only to the Thai Government but also to Australia because it prevents the inflow of heroin to this country, Thailand needs a further amount to complete the work on this system, which should be completed within two years. I speak tonight to implore Cabinet to look very seriously at the amount of aid given to Thailand and to ensure that this project is completed. It will save the lives of many people throughout the world, certainly many people in Thailand and many Australian citizens. I ask the Cabinet to look seriously at this matter and to complete the work already done by the Australian Government in providing aid for this very important project to stop the flow of heroin into Australia and other countries.