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Thursday, 21 February 1980
Page: 298

Mr Scholes asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 20 November 1979:

(   1 ) Are figures indicating an annual increase in drug problems factual.

(2)   If so, why was evidence given before Mr Justice Williams which indicated that the drug problem was negligible.

(3)   Does information provided to the media contradict this evidence.

Mr Killen - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows: (1)1 assume the question refers to the Defence Force. Information and opinion available to me suggests that some fluctuations in figures relating to investigations into alleged drug usage, instances of drug offences and other criteria may be explicable in terms of:

(a)   statistics being too small to provide reliable indications of trends;

(b)   greater awareness of and vigilance about a potential problem.

The Defence Force is not, and could not expect to be, immune from general community problems. But I caution strongly against deriving conclusions such as that implied in the question, just as I have resisted elsewhere tendentious questions using the term 'drug addicts'. The policy and vigorous practice of the Services is to deal with drug misuse by early detection, counselling, and disciplinary or administrtive action which, as explained in my answer to another question ( 5073 ), may entail discharge on a first detected use of a hard drug. Given the circumstances of Service discipline and supervision and the requirement to perform, it is unlikely that many, if any, of the tiny number of 'hard' drug cases that do occur relate to personnel whose condition could have deteriorated undetected to the point where it could be described as 'addiction'. Drug 'addiction' consequently is not a criterion in Defence Force administration or records.

(2)   The Royal Commission was informed in December 1977 that 'the total number of incidents (of illegal use and misuse of drugs in the Defence Force) is small in absolute terms' and, 'the number of detected illegal users of "hard" drugs as a proportion of total detected users is negligible. That evidence was correct.

(3)   See (2). I add that I am greatly impressed by the alertness that Service leaders display in this matter, the attention they give it, and their frankness about it: for instance, the manner in which Departmental evidence was given in public hearings of a Royal Commission nearly two years ago. Discussion of this subject would have been rewarded by more attention to the public documents of the Royal Commission and less to other publications.

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