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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 18


Senator BROWN (10:34 AM) —We do not need to because the government and its lackeys in certain sections of the media and Family First did the job after the Prime Minister consulted with them during the election campaign. Family First went into advertising and misrepresenting the Greens' policies and withdrew them under legal threat during the election campaign, including the quite scurrilous assertions about my views on young people and drugs. This is a very serious health issue in this country which needs to be addressed and options need to be looked at. If the minister believes that options should not be looked at, that we should shut our mind to options, that is a different point of view to the one I have. The minister is saying, inter alia, that young people should not be informed about the danger of ecstasy in places where the widespread use of this dangerous drug is promoted and where this drug is sold by criminal elements. I disagree; I think the government has a job to warn people and to look at how best to get information to them.

As for going into the competitive sale of these drugs, I do not agree with that. Looking at options is something we must always do because the death toll is unacceptable. As I said at the outset of my contribution, this government must bear the responsibility for having a death toll which is way above that of European equivalent countries. It is the narrow-minded, constricted view that harm minimisation is not a way to go that does that. I believe the government should open its mind to looking at options which are in place elsewhere in the world. For example, recently a referendum in Switzerland, where the majority of people were opposed to heroin clinics, had 70 per cent support because people have seen the advantages of them. The minister says that five other jurisdictions—outrageously, that includes the ACT—have not gone in the direction of the heroin clinic in New South Wales. That is because this government stopped them.

I ask the minister again: how does he deal with the gross hypocrisy of the government not only permitting but endorsing the advertising of the most death-producing, health-wrecking and abusive drug in our society these days, which is alcohol? This government supports the advertising of alcohol to young Australians, where there is a massive problem of binge drinking and an on-flow problem of the uptake of other drugs. The government says it has got a $1 billion public purse program which includes health education, knowing it is truly overridden by the billions spent on drug advertising. The minister does not know what the government's policy is, but every airport he goes into, for example, carries prodigious advertising for the sale of alcohol. Is it not a problem, Minister? Is the advertising of alcohol not a problem? Does it not cost the health system in this country billions of dollars a year? Is that drug, along with nicotine, not the biggest killer in the country? Can you answer those questions. Why is it that the government endorses the promotion of the abuse of alcohol? Because that is what comes out of the advertising of alcohol.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendment; report adopted.