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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11572

Illicit Drugs


Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (15:14): My question is to the Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism. Will the minister please update the House on how the drug ice is impacting on communities right around Australia? What more can be done to tackle this problem?


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism) (15:14): I thank the member for Petrie for that question and the interest that he takes in this issue and other law enforcement issues within his electorate. As members would be aware, the government has received the final report from the National Ice Taskforce. I congratulate former chief commissioner of Victoria Ken Lay, Professor Sally McCarthy and Professor Richard Murray for the extensive work they have done shining a light on this issue. During the course of their deliberations, they received 1,300 submissions and they travelled all around the country, but included particularly remote and regional areas, hearing from individuals, families, community organisations, police and health workers, to get a complete picture of this epidemic.

The government welcome the report and we are now carefully considering our response, but what is very clear to us is that there is not going to be a quick fix; this is going to be a hard grind. This is a very complex problem and it will require attention from every level of government. It also requires a multifaceted national response led by law enforcement but helped by measures within education and health in particular.

The report is very clear that Australia has an ice problem, and it is driven by three factors. There has been an increase in demand that has resulted in a significant increase in supply and, of course, much greater harm. It is this trifecta that is feeding into this lucrative and deadly trade. We know that, proportionately, Australians use more ice than any other country in the world, and our dependence continues to grow. At $50 a dose in some parts of the country, it is cheaper to score a hit of ice than it is to go out for a night drinking alcohol. During the past three years, we have seen a significant increase in the purity of this drug, from 19 per cent in 2010 to 62 per cent in 2013. Organised criminals continue to take advantage of this increase in dependency, and they are making huge profits from the lucrative nature of the ice market in Australia.

Ice poses unique challenges for law enforcement, as it is both imported—we have significant importations—and also manufactured domestically. I will say that law enforcement has responded to this challenge magnificently. Seizures are up and arrests are up, and the weight of ice seized has grown a staggering 60 times in the past four years—60 times. Arrests related to amphetamine type drugs have increased by 88 per cent over the past four years.

We will continue to target supply and we will continue to disrupt the criminals that peddle it, and this will always be the most important part of what the government does to stop the ice trade. But we must coordinate it better with education, we must coordinate it better with health, we must make sure that we increase our intelligence sharing with the states in particular and we must make sure that we give people prevention and rehabilitation opportunities when they require them. This government has received the report. We will study it and we will do all we can to tackle this national scourge.

Mr Turnbull: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.