Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21839


Mr Melham asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 11 August 2003:

(1) To which places outside of Australia has Major Watters travelled since he was appointed Chair of the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD).

(2) In respect of each journey, (a) on which dates and over which periods was the travel undertaken, (b) what was the cost of (i) flights, (ii) accommodation, (iii) travelling allowances and (iv) all other associated costs, (c) with whom did he meet, and (d) what papers or presentations were given by Major Watters.

(3) Did Major Watters attend the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs held in Vienna from 8-17 April 2003; if so, (a) what was the total period of his absence from Australia, (b) on what date did Major Watters leave Australia to attend the conference and on what date did he return to Australia, (c) which other places, apart from Vienna, did Major Watters visit during this trip, (d) did he use any of the period of absence from Australia for personal travel, and (e) what was the total cost to the Australian taxpayer of the travel, including all the associated costs, undertaken by Major Watters during this period of absence from Australia.


Mr Abbott (Minister for Health and Ageing) —As Minister for Health and Ageing, I have been asked to reply. The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Since Major Watters was appointed Chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) in March 1998, he has travelled overseas for ANCD work purposes on seven occasions.

He has travelled to Europe, the USA and Asia.

Since his appointment as Chairman of the ANCD, the Government has advised Major Watters that he is required to be fully aware of international developments and trends on drug issues and to foster relationships with relevant national and international drug organisations. Major Watters' travel since 1998, as outlined below, has fulfilled this requirement.

(2) (a), (b), (c) and (d) The ANCD was established in March 1998. The Department of Health and Ageing provided secretariat support for the Council until 5 May 1999, when the function was outsourced to the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA). The ANCD, Department of Health and Ageing and ADCA have provided the following advice:

In 1997/98 Major Watters travelled to Sweden, Holland and Singapore. When in Sweden, Major Watters presented keynote papers at the European Cities Against Drugs World Conference and the International Non Government Organisation meeting prior to the UN General Assembly Meeting on Drugs. He also visited community-based programs in Amsterdam and met with prison officials to view and discuss prison based programs in Singapore. The total cost of this travel to the government (flights, travel allowances, accommodation and sitting fees) was $7,387.

In 1998/99, Major Watters delivered a keynote paper at the San Patrignano Conference in Rimini, Italy. The conference organisers covered the cost of his travel to and participation at this conference. The cost to the government, associated with Major Watters' sitting fees for this period, was $1,800.

In 1999/00, Major Watters travelled to Europe (Austria and the UK). Major Watters presented keynote papers at the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions Annual Conference in Austria and the International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition Conference in the UK. The total cost to the government was $4,611.

In 2000/01, Major Watters travelled to Europe (Germany, Holland, UK and Sweden) and the USA (Washington DC and New York). In Europe, Major Watters met with officials from many treatment and drug related services and gave a keynote presentation at the National Hassela Conference in Sweden. In the USA Major Watters met officials from the White House Office of National Drug Control and Policy, National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Lindesmith Centre and visited a number of drug treatment centres. The total cost to the government of this trip was $13,686.

In 2001/02, Major Watters did not undertake any overseas travel in his capacity as Chair of the ANCD.

In 2002/03, Major Watters travelled to Europe and the USA twice. In the first trip, Major Watters gave a keynote address at the Victory Outreach International Conference (USA) and met with officials from the White House Office of National Drug Control and Policy and the White House Office for Faith Based Organisations. In Europe, Major Watters met with a range of senior officials and visited a number of drug treatment centres in the UK, Sweden and Holland. The total cost of this trip to the government was $15,789. The second trip to Europe and the USA was to attend the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in April 2003. Further information in respect of this trip is outlined under question 3.

In 2002/03, Major Watters also travelled to Manila to meet with officials from the International Federation of Non Government Organisations and present a paper on the Australian Drug Strategy. The total cost of this trip to the government was $5,064.

The ANCD has also noted that Major Watters travels economy class for the bulk of his domestic and international flights and, when undertaking overseas travel, also often stays at Salvation Army residences at no cost to the ANCD.

(3) Major Watters did attend the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna from 8-17 April 2003. He attended at the invitation of the Australian Government and presented a keynote paper on non-government organisation involvement in drug policy at the International Non Government Organisation Committee on Narcotic Drugs.

(a) Major Watters was absent from Australia for just under seven weeks.

(b) Major Watters left Australia on 4 April 2003, and returned on 15 May 2003.

(c) Major Watters also travelled to Lisbon to meet with officials from the European Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction and present a keynote paper on Australia's Drug Policy and Programs at the International Substance Abuse and Addiction Coalition Conference in Madrid. Major Watters had accepted the invitation to speak in Madrid prior to being asked by the Australian Government to attend the UN Convention in Vienna. Major Watters also visited Ireland and Hungary on ANCD and personal business at no cost to the ANCD. On his way home to Australia, Major Watters met with prison officials in Los Angeles, USA to discuss prison based treatment programs.

(d) The two-week gap between the engagements in Vienna and Madrid was used for Major Watters' personal business at his own expense. As stated in the answer to question 3(c), Major Watters also visited Ireland and Hungary during this period at no cost to the ANCD.

(e) The total cost to the government of this travel between 4 April 2003 and 15 May 2003 was $21,196.