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Wednesday, 10 February 1999
Page: 2411

Mr Kerr asked the Minister representing the Minister for Justice and Customs, upon notice, on 12 November 1998:

(1) What criteria is the Government using to judge the success or failure of its law enforcement strategy to reduce the availability of illicit drugs.

(2) Does the Government undertake research on the market for illicit drugs, if so, what (a) methods are used and (b) research results are (i) publicly available, (ii) of restricted availability and (iii) not publicly available at all.

(3) If information is restricted or not publicly available, why it is withheld.

(4) What is the Government's estimate for (a) 1996-97 and (b) 1997-98 of:

(i) the total street value of illicit drugs sold in Australia;

(ii) volume and street value of (A) illicit heroin, (B) cannabis, (C) `ecstasy', (D) amphetamines, (E) anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs and (F) all other illicit drugs imported into Australia.

(iii) volume and street value of (A) illicit heroin, (B) cannabis, (c) `ecstasy', (D) amphetamines, (E) anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs and (F) all other illicit drugs grown or manufactured for sale within Australia.

(5) What was the effect on the street price of heroin in (a) Sydney, (b) Melbourne, (c) Adelaide, (d) Perth, (e) Darwin, (f) Hobart and (g) Brisbane of the seizure of 400 kg of heroin by the Australian Federal Police in New South Wales in mid-October 1998 and how was the effect ascertained in each case.

(6) What was the effect on the street price of `ecstasy' in (a) Adelaide, (b) Melbourne, (c) Sydney, (d) Perth, (e) Darwin, (f) Hobart and (g) Brisbane of the seizure of 23,000 `ecstasy' tablets by the Australian Federal Police in Adelaide on 5 November 1998 and how was the impact ascertained in each case.

(7) Is it a fact `starter packs' of heroin are available on the streets of Melbourne for about the same price as a packet of cigarettes.

(8) How many Australians seek assistance from (a) Commonwealth, (b) State and (c) community sector agencies for assistance with ending dependency on heroin.

(9) How many persons referred to in part 8(a) are able to gain access and (b) cannot be accommodated without delay, or at all, in detoxification programs.

(10) Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the opinions of Major Watters, the Chair of its Drug Taskforce, on Ansett's decision to introduce needle disposal units in its airfleet; if so, what is the Government's response.

(11) If the Minister is unable to supply the data requested in the preceding parts of this question because insufficient information is available to the Government, what action will the Government take to ensure that adequate information is available upon which to make public policy.

Mr Williams (Attorney-General) —The Minister for Justice and Customs has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) As the Prime Minister announced on 2 November 1997, the Government's Tough on Drugs strategy comprises an integrated approach to fight the illicit drug trade. The strategy focuses on supply reduction, demand reduction and harm minimisation. The strategy was compiled with input from the health, law enforcement and non-government sectors. The success of the strategy will be measured in terms of positive impacts in these three interrelated areas.

(2) Research into illicit drug usage is undertaken through the National Police Research Unit (NPRU), the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence (ABCI), the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), the Illicit Drug Reporting System (NDARC) and the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 1995 and 1998.

The ABCI produces the annual Australian Illicit Drug Report (AIDR), which is a public document. It is the primary account of the illicit drug situation in Australia written from a law enforcement perspective and contains the most complete national collection of statistics on drug seizures, arrests, prices and purity levels, as well as addressing drug use trends from data provided by non-law enforcement sources. The most recent AIDR covers the period 1996-97. The 1997-98 AIDR is still in draft form and is expected to be released early in 1999.

(3) Information that could reveal sensitive law enforcement plans or methods is not made available to the public.

(4) Establishing estimates of total values and volumes of illicit drug markets is a very difficult task given their nature and the types of information available. The AIDR contains the best estimates currently available of the price and volume of illicit drugs. Two initiatives funded under the Government's Tough on Drug Strategy, the National Heroin Signature Programme and Drug Use Monitoring Australia (which is being run by the Australian Institute of Criminology) will help provide better information on the use and distribution of illicit drugs in Australia.

(5) and (6) The nature of the illicit drug market means that it is not possible to precisely determine the effect of seizures on the prices of street heroin or ecstacy. The primary purpose of supply reduction is to stem, suppress and disrupt the flow and trafficking of illicit drugs and to send a deterrent message to other traffickers. The impact on the price of the drug is a secondary effect.

(7) The Department is not able to confirm that so-called `starter packs' of heroin are being sold in Melbourne.

(8) and (9) These programmes are the responsibility of the Minister for Health.

(10) Yes. Major Watters was speaking on behalf of the Salvation Army and not as Chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD).

(11) See above.