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Australia is losing the war against drugs

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22 August 1997

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Shadow Attroney-General Nick Bolkus hit back at Attorney-General Daryl Williams' pathetic attempt to divert attention away from the Government's failure to adequately resource our law enforcement agencies at a time when Australia is now losing the war against drugs.

"The Director of the National Office of the Australian Federal Police admitted on Wednesday that we are losing the war against drugs," Senator Boll= said. "So how can the Government possibly justify its cuts to bodies like the Australian Federal Police, the National Crime Authority, the Director of Public Prosecutions and AUSTRAC when young Australians are dying in ever increasing numbers."

In Perth alone the number of heroin related deaths has risen from 18 to 53 in the last 12 months.

"Our streets are flooded with heroin and the price has dropped to just $5 a hit - less than a packet of cigarrettes. And this is because our border controls are filling."

"The Labor Party is committed to a strong and effective law enforcement response, we are particularly committed to allowing our police to have reasonable access to telephone intercept information. For the Attorney to suggest that the Labor Party would threaten our law enforcement capacity in this way is just disgraceful."

"The real problem in this case is that the Federal Government is, as it is with all our law enforcement agencies, simply refusing to give both them the resources they need to carry out their duties."

"Telephone interception warrants are a highly invasive investigative technique which, if abused, would threaten the privacy of every Australian. Whilst invasion of that privacy is justified in the cause of genuine law enforcement activities, telephone intercept warrants should only be allowed to be issued by judges as they are the only people with the real

expertise to ensure that such a warrant is necessary."

"The Attorney and the Government could easily solve this problem by allocating more resources to our courts. Unfortunately, they are not willing to put their money where their mouth are."

Contact: Simon Banks Ph: (06) 277 3388 (bh) or 0419 63 85 87 (m) Fax: (06) 277 3062



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L&C 58

SENATE—Legislation Wednesday, 20 August 1997

Quite clearly, you are not going to be able to investigate every crime, but is there a crisis because of resources? I do not know if you want to answer that, but that is the sort of issue that has been put. You have got a force, recognised as an outstanding one, with a certain capability. Is that capability sufficient to effect those absolutely essential matters that have to be effected? Yes, there is a lot of crime that cannot be investigated because the resources would have to be just limitless to enable you to investigate.

Mr Ireland—We deploy our resources to investigations into offences against the Commonwealth in accordance with a national prioritisation model. That model sets a bar. Obviously the level of the bar is determined by the resources we have at our disposal. With fewer resources, the bar is raised. With more resources, the bar is lowered.

Senator McKIERNAN—You said that you have not discontinued any operations. As a result of the cuts, do we know of any operations that perhaps have not been commenced because you do not have the resources to do them? Mr Ireland—There is the last explanation I gave in relation to the prioritisation model. Where there are categories of essential investigations, they are undertaken where we can do so. We may not be able to do them immediately, but we will get to them. Where it is a response to the barrier, obviously you do not have any option but to respond immediately and we do so. The level of subsequent investigations will depend on operational criteria used to assess whether or not there is a good chance . of us getting the whole syndicate or whether there is no chance whatsoever. It is a matter of judgment by the relevant genera/ managers and the national operations team in the end as to whether or not we proceed with an investigation, but there are the criteria there. The criteria are applied objectively, and we undertake those investigations that clearly indicate they are essential to do.

Senator McKIERNAN—That begs the question of which matters are not getting the priority. I am not so sure we would want to have that on the public record, for what it is worth, but it certainly does beg the question. . Mr Ireland—Indeed. Those matters that essentially fall below that bar.


Senator McKIERNAN—I merely referred to the Peter Clack article because it is there in front of me. I have got a greater concern—as Senator Ellison, the minister at the table, would know—about the happenings back in my home city of Perth, where it appears that the evidence on the ground is that the law enforcement campaigns against heroin in particular have not been successful and that there is more of it around than ever before. .

The evidence that is offered to support that argument is the number of young people who are found dead in our streets on a daily basis. I am putting that forward not in any party political way at all—I think this matter is above party political politics. Nonetheless, the evidence when you now get 53 young people who


have been found in the streets of Perth—and that is a literal expression—suggests, it would appear, that there is something dramatically wrong somewhere. Would you agree to an assertion that the law enforcement agency, Lin particular the Australian Federal Police, is losing the war against heroin in..our communities? Mr Tyrie—As to whether we are losing the war, we do not really and truly know what the extent of it is,

do we? I guess you have to be assessing our reaction to the process. We do what we can with what we have *j got. In some ways you could say we are losing the war when you see youngsters dying in that way and when you consider that it happens across Australia. But more than just a law enforcement response is necessary in relation to the problem: it is a health response, it is an education response; it is not just a law enforcement




Senator McKIERNAN—I accept that, but we are, in this estimates committee, limited to the range of matters that we can discuss, and I . do not want to go beyond the responsibilities 'and obligations of the committee. I am sure the chair would not allow me to, even if I sought to do that. But there has been—and you have put evidence on the table this afternoon—evidence that there is an increased number of seizures of the drug. Notwithstanding that, it would appear on the face of it that there is far more of the illicit drug

available in the community. I have referred to what I know of in my home state. I do not pretend to be an expert as to what is happening in other parts of Australia—in Darwin, Sydney, Melbourne or wherever. I do not pretend to know, but I would hope that what is happening in Perth is not replicated in other parts of the country. If it is, clearly we would have to collectively agree that we indeed are losing the war against it. If the happenings in Perth—as judged by the deaths of the young people—is being replicated in other parts of Australia, we must indeed be losing.


. Mr Tyrie—I would have to agree with you. Mr Ireland—Can I just mention two things: one in relation to your own state and the other in relation to the issue of heroin generally. As the Attorney-General mentioned on one occasion, the Australian Federal Police are embarking on a heroin study at the moment. We are in the collection phase. We hope, by the