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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 16

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (10:26 AM) —That is not in my portfolio but certainly the government has supported education programs in relation to alcohol and acknowledges that alcohol is a problem we have to deal with in our community. We funded the alcohol research foundation in relation to both research and education, as I understand it. I will take on notice the question about advertising.

While I am on my feet, I cannot let go unchecked a couple of comments that were made by Senator Brown and one aspect that Senator Greig mentioned. I am not aware of the Commissioner of Police ever saying that the reduction in heroin was due to a heroin drought in South-East Asia. I am aware that the Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, said that the reduction in supply was largely due to law enforcement measures and interdiction. You can get droughts from time to time or reductions in production from time to time in Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle but criminals are not stupid. They build up stockpiles which keep the flow going. We saw that in relation to Afghanistan and the Taliban. It cut back production for a while but there were huge stockpiles that kept those supplies going. As we know, heroin goes from Afghanistan largely to Europe and the United States, and we get our supply of heroin from the Golden Triangle. But I can state with confidence that the Police Commissioner of the AFP, Mick Keelty, has always stated that the major reason for the reduction in supply has been the interdiction by law enforcement. I believe that that has been borne out by independent assessment.

In relation to Senator Brown's comments, I think it is a bit rich of Senator Brown to come in here and attack the government's policy in relation to drugs. Firstly, Senator Brown was not in the chamber when I detailed the support that this government gave to diversionary programs. I cited the example of a program that I knew about personally in the Drug Court in Western Australia. That is not law enforcement only; that is rehabilitation. We introduced a national schools drug education strategy. I introduced that strategy when I was minister for schools in 1998. That is not law enforcement; it is a wider approach in the fight against drugs. I appreciate the acknowledgment that Senator Greig gave to that but in response to Senator Brown's comments I would say that his comment that there is just a law enforcement approach to drugs from this government is totally wrong. We have spent over a billion dollars on the Tough on Drugs strategy. As I recall, the majority of that funding of over a billion dollars would have been spent on education and health.

Recently, I announced just over $2 million from the proceeds of crime—there is some poetic justice, you might say, in relation to those proceeds—going to drug rehabilitation programs. That money went to drug rehabilitation. That is not law enforcement; that is drug rehabilitation. We have always said that we fight drugs on three fronts: law enforcement, education and rehabilitation. You will not find me saying anything else nor have I deviated from that since I have been in this role or in my previous roles as minister for schools or parliamentary secretary to the minister for health.

For Senator Brown to say that we only have a law enforcement approach to this is totally wrong; in fact, we have been involved in diversionary programs in relation to alcohol abuse, particularly in Indigenous communities. We have done this with our crime prevention program. If you want to look at a soft approach to drugs, one which is totally off the beam, look at what the Greens propose, which Senator Brown tried to deny during the election campaign, although it was on his web site. The fact is the Greens had it on their web site, and it was a soft approach to drugs, even serious drugs such as amphetamine type stimulants.

Senator Brown cites the states. I can tell you that South Australia is scaling back its original legislation in relation to cannabis, Western Australia is regretting the day it ever went down that path, and I do not see New South Wales expanding its heroin injecting room. If it is such a good idea in those three states, why don't all the other states follow? You have six states and two territories—all with Labor governments—and three out of eight have gone down that path; the other five have not. I sit on the Ministerial Council on Drugs Strategy, the Police Ministers Council and the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, and I can tell you right now that those five other governments are not going down that path. For Senator Brown to highlight that is really without much base. Let us have look at the Greens' policy. Their web site revealed a range of proposals and it stated:

1.2 The regulation of the personal use of currently illegal drugs should be moved outside the criminal framework.

... ... ...

3.17 pilot programs to test the effectiveness of controlled availability of heroin to registered users from specifically licensed clinics

... ... ...

3.19 the decriminalisation and regulation of cannabis cultivation and possession for personal use, while monitoring its effects on the health of young people

3.20 the controlled availability of cannabis at appropriate venues

... ... ...

3.25 investigations of options for the regulated supply of social drugs such as ecstasy in controlled environments, where information will be available about health and other effects of drug use.

I will repeat the last one:

... investigations of options for the regulated supply of social drugs such as ecstasy—

this defies belief, but I will go on because this is from the web site—

in controlled environments, where information will be available about health and other effects of drug use.

Senator Brown should have a good look at that. I put out that statement on 31 August in relation to the policy on the Greens' web site: `Policy: Drugs, Substance Abuse and Addiction'. It appeared on the Greens' web site. I do not think Senator Brown will find much support around Australia or from the state and territory governments to have ecstasy termed a social drug. When I was at the ministerial council on drug supply and we talked about the issue of amphetamine type stimulants, we deliberately avoided the term `party drugs'. We deliberately avoided the term `designer drugs'. It was unanimous, I can tell you, that we should avoid giving those sorts of drugs, which are lethal, some soft description as a social drug.

If Senator Brown wants to come in here and have a debate about illicit drugs, he should at least put forward what the Greens stand for. We have got that from the Greens' web site. One, he is wrong about the government's approach to Tough on Drugs—it is not just law enforcement alone, and we have a record of funding education and health. Two, when he cites the state governments as going down that path, he fails to point out that out of eight state and territory governments, only three are doing it; the other five have decided well against it. Finally why doesn't he trumpet what the Greens have said on their web site:

... investigations of options for the regulated supply of social drugs such as ecstasy.

If Senator Brown has that as his party platform, so be it, but let him at least let the Australian community know that.