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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 614


Senator TATE(9.12) —In the two or three minutes left to me I wish to conclude my remarks concerning a national drug strategy for Australia. I had emphasised the importance of the community dealing with both legal and illegal drugs because the abuse of both drugs is a cause of great distress in the community. When we look at the statistics we see that, in 1983, 200 deaths could be attributed to the abuse of opiates and 20,000 deaths to the abuse of alcohol and tobacco. We know that our hospital beds and graveyards are filled with many more victims of legal drug abuse than illegal drug abuse. Unless we tackle the broad range of drug abuse which occurs throughout Australian society and makes it such a drug-ridden society we will leave ourselves open to the charge, particularly from the young, that we are acting in a hypocritical manner. Once that charge is made by the young people they will not listen to the preventive and educative programs which are necessary in order to dissuade them from the abuse of the consequent addiction to drugs.

It is essential that we as politicians not become obsessed with heroin abuse and its dependent crime, whether it be robbery with violence, breaking and entering or prostitution, which in the big cities such as Sydney and Melbourne leads to an outcry from the populace for more severe and more draconian penalties. It is my belief that Australia has virtually exhausted the heavier penalties route. If we are to punish drug traffickers, we need a more sophisticated approach which looks to the monetary benefits which they accrue from their nefarious trade. We need to confiscate assets upon conviction and freeze assets, even whilst prosecution processes are under way, to stop them from being dissipated.

My concluding remarks, I recall, were that we as politicians though are unlikely to come up with the answers unless we listen to those community organisations, those voluntary groups and those individuals who are prepared to work so arduously in the concrete, practical situation of assisting those who are suffering from drug abuse, whether it be abuse of the legal drugs such as alcohol or illegal drugs such as marijuana and the derivatives of the opium poppy. In this respect I pay tribute to Mr Frank Perry, Chairman of the Prisons Alcoholics Anonymous Committee at Risdon gaol in Hobart. He organised the very good seminar on drug abuse, its attendant problems and the possible avenues of treatment and prevention. I pay tribute to those community groups that gathered on that occasion in Hobart. They were the Youth Advocacy Council, the Community Health Service, Lifeline, Community Welfare, the Cancer Committee, the alcohol clinic doctors and staff, community youth support scheme organisers, the homemaker service, the youth shelter, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, the Community Learning Centre, Alcoholics Anonymous, men's shelters and hostels, the Salvation Army alcohol rehabilitation program and the prison educator. With all those persons gathered together under the chairmanship of Julian Punch we found we had a most useful exchange of views. I hope that Mr Frank Perry gets the credit which he deserves for organising that seminar.