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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 12


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (10:06 AM) —Senator Greig asked a very good question and it is one which the government is aware of. As I have said repeatedly, the fight in relation to drugs covers three fronts: law enforcement, education and rehabilitation. In relation to law enforcement, we are looking at a means of identifying sources of amphetamines, particularly precursors. I set up a precursor working group over two years ago which deals with the trade in precursors which go to make amphetamines. That has proved to be more important as time has gone by and it has involved the work of the health, law enforcement, education and private sectors. Indeed, the advisory group that I have is made up of people from those sectors. The work that they have done has been outstanding, right from the pharmaceutical sector—the supply of pseudoephedrine via cold tablets, which is one source of precursors for methamphetamine type stimulants. At the law enforcement level we are being very mindful of the growth in the use of amphetamines. Senator Greig is quite right that Australia is one of the highest users of amphetamine type stimulants in the world.

In relation to rehabilitation, we have drug diversionary programs. For instance, Senator Greig would be aware of the Drug Court of Western Australia. Many of the diversionary programs have Commonwealth funding and, indeed, that drug court could not function without those diversionary programs. I have been down to the drug court and seen first-hand the excellent work that is done there. That covers not only heroin but other illicit drugs as well. That is another area where Commonwealth funding is being used to address the abuse of drugs, not just heroin. I think Senator Greig has a point that, in the past, heroin achieved more notoriety than other drugs. In fact one of the concerns I have is with young Australians and the fact that there seems to now be a lack of awareness of heroin in comparison to amphetamine type stimulants—party drugs or designer drugs, as they are called. I think they are misnomers, because those drugs are much more lethal and dangerous than those terms would suggest.

I think that that is the big challenge for us. We have got the rehabilitation programs and the diversionary programs there, but I think the new frontier in relation to the use of amphetamines in this country lies in education. That does come within the ambit of our National School Drug Education Strategy, which we introduced in 1998, but I think we need to do more work on the education of young people in Australia in relation to these sorts of drugs. The government are totally committed to providing resources for this. I think that across all governments we have to develop a strategy as to how we deal with young people, especially in this area. In relation to heroin, I think we have made some ground; we have still got to make a lot more ground in relation to amphetamines, and we are intent on doing that. I do not have all the details of the programs here with me—they are in the Department of Health and Ageing and in Education as well, and they are not my responsibility—but I take a great interest in the area, and I undertake to Senator Greig that I will provide him with more detail in relation to that.

I can say, on behalf of the government, that we are totally committed to education programs to educate, in particular, young Australians about the dangers of amphetamine type stimulants, to rehabilitation programs which go to drug abuse across the board, including amphetamine type stimulants, and, of course, to law enforcement, for which I have personal responsibility.