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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 727

Senator TATE(5.21) —I also wish to comment on the section in the Australian Capital Territory Health Commission annual report for 1983-84 wherein it mentions the Alcohol and Drug Service and its Director, Dr Keith Powell. It warrants a tribute from this chamber to the manner in which the Service, as Senator Baume quite rightly commented, has set itself goals and targets by which it will be judged. This is a very praiseworthy and indeed courageous attitude on the part of those who are involved in the provision of the service. Indeed this chamber, having had that put to it as a goal, will no doubt judge the Service by the way in which it achieves, falls short of or exceeds the target it has set itself. What is very important is that there is a recognition and listing within the aims of the Service of the fact that priority has to be given to preventive measures as well as to the early detection and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. The linking of drug and alcohol abuse can be expressed in various different ways.

Senator Peter Baume —Alcohol and other drugs.

Senator TATE —I was about to say that, insofar as it mentions alcohol and drug abuse, a better phrase or terminology would have been 'drugs, including alcohol abuse' because it is the abuse of the full range of legal and illegal drugs which fills our hospital beds and graveyards with its victims. Indeed, I pointed out to the chamber in a debate last week that, referring to the 1983 national figures, some 200 deaths can be attributed to abuse of drugs derived from the opium poppy and some 20,000 deaths can be attributed to the use of alcohol and tobacco within the community.

Those sorts of statistics require us as a society to counter them and to try to prevent the abuse of both legal and illegal drugs. If we do not, we are putting to one side a tremendous portion of human suffering, of illness, of medical and hospital costs, and indeed of deaths, and concentrating obsessively on those deaths and that illness which can be attributed to opiate abuse. I am not saying that that is not important. Of course, the whole criminal syndicate operation and the cash flows into more nefarious activities generated by the peddling of those illegal drugs are things to which this chamber in other debates will want to address itself.

But this comprehensive look at the whole question of drug abuse is essential in order to get the total picture-not only to get the proportions right and the picture right but also to enable our preventive and educative programs, whether through the schools or the various media, to have their effect on the target groups, particularly the young, because the young will not listen to such programs if they believe that society is being hypocritical. If we talk obsessively about marijuana and heroin abuse and at the same time shower honours on the brewery barons and the tobacco tycoons and allow them to conduct the peddling of legal drugs in the way that they do, the eyes and the ears of young people will be closed to the message that we are trying to get through about drug abuse in general. It is very important that the comprehensive picture be given. That has been done in these few pages that I have selected from this report. I commend the Alcohol and Drug Service of the Australian Capital Territory Health Commission for setting itself these goals and I hope that under Dr Keith Powell it enjoys the success that it deserves.