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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 5424


Mr WAKELIN —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Could the Prime Minister please outline to the House the progress which has been made in the implementation of the government's Tough on Drugs strategy.


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —This week is described as Treatment Works Week and tomorrow is the International Day Against Drug Abuse. I indulge myself by saying to the member for Grey and to all other members of the parliament that the resolve of my government to contribute $100 million to the construction of the Darwin to Alice Springs railway remains undiminished. I also remind the House that I am the first Prime Minister since Federation to honour a promise to build that railway, in contrast to the dishonoured commitment of many of my Labor predecessors.

This week, drug treatment and prevention agencies across Australia will be celebrating the effectiveness of treatment in reducing drug problems. The major new development to celebrate in Australia this year is the government's $190 million Tough on Drugs strategy. This strategy is designed to increase the accessibility of treatment and education programs to the community as well as stepping up the fight against the illicit drug trade.

Just a few weeks ago, the health minister announced that community and non-government organisations should consider applying for funding under the strategy. The non-government organisation treatment grant program will fund non-government organisations to establish and operate new services for treating illicit drug problems, with an emphasis on filling geographic gaps in the coverage of existing services. A total of $27.7 million has been allocated.

The focus of the community partnership initiative is on prevention and the reduction of the use of illicit drugs by young people, and $4.4 million has been allocated. The guidelines for these programs have been developed by the government's new Australian National Council on Drugs, headed by Major Brian Watters of the Salvation Army.

I conclude by mentioning briefly some discussion that occurred in the press last weekend about the possibility of heroin trials being conducted in Victoria. The comment was made that there should be a national approach in relation to these matters and that a heroin trial should not be conducted by one jurisdiction in isolation from other jurisdictions. As far as the Commonwealth government is concerned, we remain resolutely opposed to any heroin trials.