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Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Page: 2179

Mr HARDGRAVE —My question is to the Prime Minister. I draw the Prime Minister's attention to recent record seizures of illegal narcotics by the Australian Federal Police, state authorities, Customs and the National Crime Authority. Do these recent results reflect the early success of his government's Tough on Drugs strategy?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for Moreton for his question. Can I say to the House at the outset that there are few issues in this country that cause more ongoing alarm and concern to parents, community organisations and political parties on both sides of politics than the continuing menace of drug addiction, particularly for the young people of Australia. In answering the honourable member's question, I do not claim any particular monopoly of wisdom and I do not claim to have all of the answers to this problem, but I certainly do not believe that you will solve the problem by glib calls for a simplistic solution.

The only way that we can hope to make a difference as governments at either a federal or a state level is to follow a strategy in three areas: we need to tighten and make more effective law enforcement; we need to educate people against the perils of drug addiction; and we also need to have effective programs of rehabilitation and detoxification for people who want to break the drug habit. I remain personally of the view that such glib solutions as heroin trials are not the long-term answer to the drug problem.

Let me say something about the government's Tough on Drugs strategy, which I believe the evidence suggests has been very effective, as evidenced by the record seizures of illegal narcotics that have taken place in recent months. Federal agencies have seized 565 kilograms of heroin in the first seven months of 1998-99, and this compares with an average of only 113 kilograms in the period 1990 to 1996. That is a fivefold increase. Federal agencies have seized over 274 kilograms of cocaine in the first seven months of 1998-99, compared with an average of 127 kilograms for each full year from 1990 to 1996.

These successes have been possible because of the resources that have been made available to law enforcement agencies. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs Service. I also thank and congratulate the state police forces around Australia for the cooperation that those federal agencies have received. Only through an integrated approach will it be possible to achieve greater results in this area.

The government has allocated $215 million over four years already to the Tough on Drugs strategy. That includes $35 million to help Customs protect our borders, more than $75 million to attack the illegal drug trade, $95 million for treatment programs and around $8 million to develop a new school drug education strategy based on a goal of zero tolerance of drugs in school—a goal that I believe the overwhelming majority of Australian parents support and subscribe to very strongly.

In August 1998 the government announced a $30 million first instalment of the Tough on Drugs grants to 24 communities and 60 non-government organisations to fund education and treatment. During the 1998 election campaign, I announced a further $75 million to strengthen the fight against illicit drugs. This will involve more money for treatment and education, three extra mobile strike teams and state-of-the-art border protection facilities. This will bring to almost $300 million the government's commitment to fighting illicit drug use in this country.

Finally, I want to thank the members of the Australian National Council on Drugs, under the skilful chairmanship of Major Brian Watters of the Salvation Army. This is a very broadly based community organisation led by a man who understands far more than many of the other commentators on this issue the human cost of drugs, and who has a far deeper understanding of the right policies needed to fight them.