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My Plan To Tackle Australia's Drug Problem Kim Beazley, Leader of the Opposition, Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Health, and Duncan Kerr, Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs

Joint Media Statement - 22 February 2001

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Labor is today releasing a 10-point plan to tackle Australia's drug problem. It is a comprehensive strategy intended to help the victims, protect our families and fight the criminals. Our plan complements the strategies being developed by the States and fills the gaps in the Howard Government's out-dated and one-dimensional approach.

Labor's approach is intended to benefit all Australians. We have acknowledged that the negative effects of drug abuse are not limited to users alone. Families and communities suffer from discarded needles, public drug dealing, drug-related violence and crime on our streets. This is why Labor has broadened the focus of drug policy to include families and communities.

We have set three basic goals:

Keeping people alive; ● Protecting families and communities; ● Fighting drug-related crime. ●

Too often the drugs debate is characterised by empty rhetoric. Labor will shift the focus to positive steps that tackle the roots of the problem.

Labor believes in what works. We have consulted widely with experts in this field to produce a balanced set of policies that concentrate on getting people out of the drug-crime cycle and are backed by credible educational, social and health initiatives.

Our emphasis is on practical measures to support families grappling with this issue, to reduce the numbers of young people who become involved with illicit drugs, to speed the rehabilitation of drug users and to curb the growing death toll among young people.

Much of this plan focuses on the use of heroin, which has reached a new peak in its impact on our community. However, our policies are equally relevant to other illicit drugs being used in our society, including cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis.

We will not allow criminals to profit from the misery of others. We will pursue the profits made by drug dealers and will focus law enforcement efforts on organised crime. The long-overdue establishment of the Australian Coast Guard by Labor will substantially increase our capacity to police our oceans and protect our borders from drug smugglers.

Labor will establish Community Safety Zones in areas plagued by high levels of crime - drug dealing, property invasions, burglaries and drug-related violence - and by low levels of community safety. In consultation with State governments, police agencies, criminology institutions and communities, Labor will identify these areas and concentrate efforts to reduce crime and increase security for their citizens. Each zone will be targeted with new inter-agency Joint Police Action Teams; increased Australian Federal Police numbers; and support for the development of local solutions to crime and safety issues through Community Safety Liaison Officers and Drug Action Programs.

We must continue to discourage the use of illicit drugs and restrict their availability. But this alone will not alleviate all the problems associated with drug abuse. We need to address the social causes of drug taking in an effort to reduce the demand for drugs. We have to discover why some people view drug use as a means of coping with the pressures of life, and why for some drug dependency becomes a way of life.

The key planks of Labor's approach are:

Keeping people alive

1. Implementing practical strategies to save lives and improve the general health of drug users.

2. Putting resources into treatment, detoxification and rehabilitation facilities.

3. Reaffirming our commitment to consider on the merits any State proposal to trial: (i) new pharmaceutical treatments (ii) controlled prescription of heroin (iii) medically supervised injecting rooms.

Protecting families and communities

4. Tackling the roots of drug abuse.

5. Supporting successful approaches to substance abuse in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

6. Making the community safer through Community Safety Zones.

Fighting drug related crime

7. Breaking the links between drugs, crime and prison by supporting education, treatment and the effective use of the criminal justice system.

8. Targeting drug dealers and confiscating the profits of crime.

9. Establishing an Australian Coast Guard to improve the security of our national borders.

A truly national approach

10. Reforming the national structures for drug policy to streamline procedures, coordinate Government approaches and maximise services on the ground.

Policy document

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.