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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 11


Senator GREIG (10:03 AM) —The minister, in his contributions, spoke of ecstasy and methamphetamine use in Australian society. I just wanted to ask a few questions around that. The extent to which crystal meth and ecstasy are being used, particularly by young people in our society, has been of increasing concern to me in recent months. The government's policy—the Howard doctrine if you like, over the term of three, now four, governments—has been a very strong, tough on drugs approach and there has been a lot of money going into publications and some education. But it seems to me that that has been largely focused on heroin use. I think most Australians, when listening to debates or thinking about drug use, tend to have that image of the junky with the dark eyes and the needle in their arm in Kings Cross and other places that experience these difficulties. It worries me that that is no longer the drug issue in Australia. It is now methamphetamine, speed and, to a lesser extent, ecstasy.

We saw a report recently which quite shockingly showed that we Australians are now the highest consumers of ecstasy in the world and the second highest consumers of methamphetamines, of speed, after Thailand. If the government is going to argue that its tough on drugs approach has been successful in reducing heroin deaths, and there is evidence for that, then the logical extension is that its tough on drugs approach has failed when it comes to methamphetamine and ecstasy use. What I would like to hear from the government is whether or not it has turned its mind to shifting its focus, resources, education campaign and money on the drug issue towards better educating young people in particular about the harmful long-term effects of methamphetamine and ecstasy use. My experience with friends, colleagues and people of my generation and younger is that this is seen in a very blase way. It troubles me that there is not a proper education campaign focused on those particular drugs. I can only say again that this laissez faire attitude troubles me. The research I am reading is showing that more and more health professionals—psychologists and psychiatrists—are becoming increasingly concerned about the long-term health implications, particularly with mental health and schizophrenia, from the use of these drugs.