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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1442

Illicit Drugs

Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:35): My question without notice is to the Attorney-General. I refer the Attorney-General to two important facts regarding my proposal for involuntary medical detox treatment for children who are addicted to ice. Firstly, suitably qualified medical professionals, under our existing health laws, are able to authorise involuntary treatment for patients who suffer from damaged mental health and are subject to dangerous, uncontrollable and unpredictable behaviour. Secondly, people addicted to and using ice must also suffer damage to their mental health and are also subject to dangerous, uncontrollable and unpredictable behaviour. Given these obvious truths, can the Attorney-General explain why his government refuses to support my call for the same suitably qualified medical professionals, acting under new health laws, from authorising involuntary health treatment for ice addicts, especially those who are our children?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:36): Thank you very much, Senator Lambie, for raising this issue in the chamber today—as we all know, this is a very important issue—and for giving me a little notice of the question so that I can put more-specific material before you. What the government has done in relation to this issue is to drive a national approach, through COAG, to combating Australia's ice problem. At the heart of that national approach led by the Commonwealth government lies the National Ice Action Strategy, which was agreed to by COAG in December last year and involves all nine Australian governments, together with community organisations, working together to tackle the ice problem.

It is a regrettable fact that proportionally Australians use more methamphetamine, including ice, than almost any other country. We have made significant investments in policing our borders and our streets to combat the supply of ice. We have been successful. We have had a number of significant arrests and significant seizures of ice. For example, we have invested $18 million from the proceeds of crime account—that is, from money actually taken from criminals—to enhance the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's intelligence sharing with state and territory and international partners to stop the supply of ice at its source.

But, as I have said several times now, we cannot just arrest our way out of this problem. To break the drug dealers' business model, we have to smash the demand for this drug. Senator Lambie, you have brought a proposal to the chamber, and the government will consider it very carefully. We want to work with all colleagues in this chamber, just as we work with state and territory governments of both political persuasions and with civil society organisations to assemble a— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a supplementary question.

Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:38): Does the Attorney-General concede that Australia has never seen a drug as addictive and as dangerous as ice? Combined with the unprecedented quantity of ice being consumed, lives lost and families ripped apart, will the Attorney-General acknowledge that Australia's laws have not kept up with this unprecedented health threat, and they prevent parents and family doctors from taking early medical intervention should they try to involuntarily detox their ice-addicted children.?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:39): Senator Lambie, I agree with you as you acknowledge that this is a health problem. Whatever else it is, it is a health problem, and it needs a multidimensional response. It needs a law enforcement response—and I have explained to you some of the law enforcement initiatives the government has taken—and it also needs a health response. That is why, in response to the National Ice Taskforce report, the government announced $300 million of new money to combat the scourge of ice in communities across the country. Of that, $241.5 million will be invested through 31 Primary Health Networks, which will use their local knowledge to boost the alcohol and other drug treatment sector and reduce demand for ice. We will outlay $13 million to introduce new Medicare Benefits Schedule items for addiction medicine specialists to increase the availability of treatment. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Final supplementary question, Senator Lambie.

Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:40): I would suggest, before you go handing out that $300 million worth of money, you lay down the law with some of these states and put some intervention in yourself. Will the Attorney-General agree to work with all senators of this chamber and help draft new Commonwealth laws which finally acknowledge the highly addictive and dangerous nature of ice and the unprecedented health and social problems ice addiction causes, while giving Australian parents the right to involuntarily detox their drug-addicted children, before you go and pass out these millions of dollars worth of money? Lay down the law. (Time expired)

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:40): The supply of prohibited drugs, including ice, and trafficking in prohibited drugs, including ice, and importing prohibited drugs, including ice, is already a crime against Australian law. Senator Lambie, I listened carefully to what you had to say, and I am very happy to engage with you in further conversation if you have specific proposals for law reform, but the point I make to you is that the supply, trafficking or importation of this particular drug is already a serious crime against Australian law. What we need is for that law to be enforced; for the suppliers, their financiers and the organised criminals who stand behind them to be caught; and for the quantities of the drug to be seized—and the Australian Federal Police have had some great success, as I have explained to you, in doing that. Also, we need the health response that I have also explained.