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John Howard missing in action during the war against drugs



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No.50/97

29 October 1997

II ADE1A1 OFFICE PO BOX 5, TORRENSVILLE PLAZA SA 5031 101 HEN EY BEACH ROAD MILE EN SA 5031 TEL: 08 3 2 7477

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SENATOR THE HON NICK BOLKUS

SHADOW ATTORNEY GENERAL SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

JOHN HOWARD MISSING IN ACTION DURING THE WAR AGAINST DRUGS

"The Prime Minister's announcement, expected tomorrow, that will allocate more resources to the war against drugs will be too little too late," Shadow Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Senator Nick Bolkus said today.

"In many of Australia's major cities, it is now cheaper to buy heroin than a packet of cigarettes," Senator Bollais said. "You can buy heroin for as little as $5 to $6 a hit."

"Young kids, experimenting with drugs, are now going straight onto heroin because it is one of the cheapest and most readily available drugs around. And the bodies of overdose victims are turning up on an almost daily basis on the streets of cities like Perth."

"Why?"

"Because the Prime Minister has gone missing in action during the war against drugs. Since the election, the Government has mercilessly cut the budgets of our law enforcement agencies without regard to the impact these cuts are having on their ability to get the job done."

"And the Government has made these cuts at a time vhien they knew that heroin was flooding into this country at an unprecedented rate."

"To cut the budgets of our law enforcement agencies in this way was grossly irresponsible. And the band aid measures, to be announced tomorrow, will be too late to stop the flow of drugs into this country."

"Australia's law enforcement agencies have had their budgets cut by more than $225 million over 4 years," Senator Bolkus said.

• The Australian Federal Police's budget has been cut by $37.6 million over the last two years. Over the four years from the election of the Howard Government, the AFP will receive $81.9 million less than it would have under Labor. We will lose more than 100 federal police agents in this year alone as a result. As Commissioner Palmer recently

admitted, the AFP is now only capable of undertaking pro-active operations against 1 of the 7 or 8 major crime rings at a time.

• The Australian Customs Service's budget has been cut by $79 million over four years. 300 Customs officers were laid off last year alone. As a result, Australia is now only stopping an estimated 10 percent of the heroin coming into this country.

• The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution's budget has been cut by $14.6 million

over the next 4 years, reducing our ability to prosecute the criminals we catch.

AUSTRAC, the agency responsible for targeting the money laundering activities of the Mr Big's, will receive $9.1 million less over 4 years than it would have under Labor.

The National Crime Authority's budget was cut by $7.4 million last yearOver the four year period, the NCA will receive $21.2 million less than it would have under Labor. And $20.4 of its reduced budget will not be avaialble for the war against drugs. As a result of these cuts, the NCA, which targets the activities of organised crime, now only has notional

presences in both South Australia and Western Australia.

And the additional $20 million proceeds of crime to be seized by targeting fraud against the Commonwealth will not be spent, as it would have under Labor, on up-grading our law enforcement capabilities or on drug education and rehabilitation services. Already, $13

million less has been spent on these much needed programs.

"Even the National Campaign Against Violence and Crime is a broken promise. The Government originally promised to spend $18 million over 3 years. Now they are spending only $13 million over the same period. And even that includes $3 million stolen from Labor's Safer Australia program."

"The Government's commitment to the fight against crime has been hollow," Senator Bolkus said.

"It's too late trying to clean up the heroin on our streets if its already flooded into our country. It's like putting you finger in a dyke after the dam has burst."

"As the Victorian Police Commissioner so rightly stated earlier this year, the influx of heroin means 'more addicts, more deaths, more crime, more family breakdown and high social and financial costs, with the State police able to do little to prevent the flow of heroin. . ."

"We need an integrated response to the war against drugs," Senator Bolkus said. "We obviously need a strong law enforcement response but we also need better education programs to discourage our kids taking up these drugs in the first place. We also need systematic health care to assist those already addicted to help them manage their habits and ultimately to get off these drugs."

"Mr Howard is only giving extra funding to the war against drugs because of Labor's successful campaign on behalf of the community. As with the cuts to nursing homes and the campaign on tariffs - Labor is taking the lead and, one again, the Prime Minister can only hope to follow."

Contact: Simon Banks Ph: (02) 6277 3388 (bh) or 0419 63 85 87 (m) Fax: (02) 6277 3062

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