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Thursday, 13 April 2000
Page: 16029


Mr SCHULTZ (12:35 PM) — On Sunday, 19 March, my wife, Gloria, and I attended the launch of a drug awareness video by the Department of Corrective Services, South West Region. The video, titled The Big Trip, was a true story about a former drug addict and was designed to send a strong message to our youth about drug addiction and drug abuse. The video was supported by Goulburn City Council, Oasis Youth Support Network and the Regional Consultative Committee. It was refreshing for Gloria and me to be part of the launch of that video, as it showed us that there are individuals and organisations committed to warning our youth about the impact of drug addiction. It was particularly heartening to see that the young woman depicted in the video had volunteered her time, put aside her discomfiture and talked about her personal experiences while addicted to illicit drugs.

Equally enlightening was the safety book I launched on 27 March, titled the Child Safety Handbook. The book, which was designed in conjunction with New South Wales Police Legacy, Safety House Australia and Millbank Publications, has devoted various chapters to all types of safety. A significant proportion of the book is devoted to drug awareness. The important thing about this book is that it constantly reminds parents that they are responsible, just as children are, for trying to reverse the horrible impact that illicit drug use has made on communities around Australia. It was great to see that organisations like Police Legacy and Safety House Australia are making sure that both parents and children are contributing to safer communities in Australia.

My point in talking about the wonderful efforts and achievements by some organisations in educating us about drugs is that alcohol and drug abuse is an increasing problem for Australian communities. It is estimated that drug addiction is responsible for 80 per cent of the legal, judicial, imprisonment and criminal costs of crime in Australia. Equally disturbing is that in 1979 there was a heroin death every five days; now there is one every 10 minutes.

So what has happened in the New South Wales government, whereby legislation that effectively encourages drug abuse in Australia has been passed—regrettably, supported by the New South Wales opposition? An article appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, 1 April explained that young people caught with small quantities of hard drugs, including heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD, will be given the chance of a caution or counselling rather than court. This option will be available to young people possessing 30 grams of cannabis, 0.25 grams of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines or 0.0008 grams of LSD. The New South Wales Special Minister of State, John Della Bosca, has supported the move, stating:

Counselling or cautioning has the outcome—and there's a huge amount of evidence to support this—of assisting those offenders to change their ways.

Says who? How can going soft on young offenders discourage them from continued and more serious drug related crime in the future?

Major Brian Walters, a Salvation Army spokesman and adviser to the Prime Minister on drug policy, seems to be one of a few individuals with a real understanding of the extent of drug abuse in Australia. He has publicly described the laws as a slap on the wrist—and he is absolutely right—later stating to a Daily Telegraph reporter that they are `torpedoing any clear and unambiguous message to young people that they should not be involved in drug use.' The federal government cannot let this embarrassing whitewash of the real problems centred around drug issues go on any longer. We have to continue to take a tough approach to drugs and we have to encourage all states in the country to do the same. Education, together with rehabilitation and detoxification, is the answer, not the sorts of politically correct exercises that are being introduced by the New South Wales government.

I make these comments because I have been involved for over 11 years, on a regular basis, in trying to raise the issues and to convince people about the dangers of drugs. I intend visiting a detoxification unit in Perth next week to have a look at some of the outstanding work being done in that clinic to get heroin addicts off their addiction. That is what we should be on about. We are going down the same path with this sort of nonsense that we went down with regard to the methadone program. It was introduced in the best interests of the people and now it is out of control. We are going down the same path as the needle syringe exchange program which I warned people about in 1988—and I have been proven right—as being a program supplying implements to inject heroin. (Time expired)