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Tough on drugs announcement, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Brassall, Ipswich.

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5 September 2002




Well thank you very much Major Watters, my parliamentary colleague Cameron Thompson the Federal Member for Blair. William Bonnor, thank you for your very warm welcome. I knew and admired your uncle but even more than that, it is wonderful to receive such a generous welcome from representatives of indigenous Australia and particularly from the Jagera people and we thank you very warmly for that. I’d also like to especially welcome the presence of representatives of the Queensland Police Force because the police of Australia play an absolutely critical role in the Tough on Drugs campaign, and I’ve also noticed the presence of another of my Federal parliamentary colleagues Peter Dutton, the newly elected Member for Dickson.

We started a Tough on Drugs strategy at a Federal level in 1997 and since then at a Federal level we have committed $625 million, which is the largest injection of money from a Federal Government to fight the drug scourge in Australia. The money is committed in three ways. It is committed to bolster the fight against the drug barons, in other words the law enforcement side of the campaign.

I make no apology for the fact that I am totally opposed to heroin trials and I’m totally opposed to heroin injection rooms. And while I am Prime Minister of this country I will not see the Federal Government do anything to allow a breaking down of that policy. And I believe incidentally that I have the support of many people on various sides of politics in Australia.

One thing I want to say is that by and large there has been great cooperation between State and Federal Governments to fighting the drugs scourge. This is not a party political issue. It is a crusade issue like to help prevent the scourge of drugs capturing the young in our community. That is what it is about. And it’s also about helping people who want to break the habit. We all find it hard to break habits. I used to smoke. I stopped smoking back in 1979. I



found it very easy to stop smoking on about 14 or 15 occasions before that. Very easy. I mean, you know, I lasted for a day or two or three, but eventually I got sensible and stopped completely. Now that was a minor challenge to what I can only imagine is the challenge of somebody who has been addicted to heroin for a long period of time. And they, along with the disapproval we voice, they also need to have our support and our understanding, and that is why the second limb is about rehabilitation of people.

And for too long until a few years ago, too little was done about rehabilitation. And I’ve often said at launches such as this that the most distressing experience I have in talking to Australians about drugs is to be on a talkback radio programme and to have the mother or father of a young person affected by drugs ringing me up and saying I’ve been trying for months to get my son into a rehabilitation program and there are no places available, and nobody will take him. Now that is terrible. And that really should affect all of us. So we have injected a lot of extra money into the rehabilitation side of the campaign against drugs. And an element of that is what is called our diversion initiative where we effectively say to people, that the police and the law enforcement authorities say to people whose drug habit is starting to bring them into conflict with the criminal justice system, we say to those people - righto, you’ve got a choice. You either go away and try and get yourself rehabilitated or you can ultimately end up in the slammer, let’s face it, because you’ll start breaking into somebody’s home, you’ll start assaulting somebody in order to get some money and to buy some drugs, and you’ll be in trouble. And you’ve got that choice. And that diversion program we are operating in conjunction with the States. It varies a bit around the country. It works better in some parts of Australia than others but I’m pleased to say that once again by and large there has been very strong cooperation between the Federal and State Governments.

And the final element, the third element, is education. In other words, recognising that prevention is always better than cure, recognising that you can communicate to people at an early stage the damage they do to their bodies, to their lives and the lives of people around them, by falling into the use of illicit drugs and indeed the abuse of other drugs such as alcohol, then that will have a very beneficial impact. Now that’s the theory of it. That is a description of the goal.

What I’m pleased to say is that we have some hard evidence it is working, not reported enough because it runs against the popular view. The popular view in many sections of the media and amongst commentators is you should more or less sort of take all the constraints off, give in, don’t bother fighting, you can’t stop it, get on board, forget about trying to fight it. Now that’s not a view I accept and it’s not a view the majority of Australians accept. And that’s one of the reasons why the success we’ve had over the last few years is not as widely reported as it should be. I mean over the last few years we’ve seized almost six tonnes of illicit drugs and the cooperation between the Federal Police, the Customs and the State Police has been quite outstanding.

And over the last three years, there has been a 23% reduction in the proportion of people using illicit drugs. You don’t hear much about that, but a 23% reduction. And one of the reasons is that people are starting to respond to some of the programmes of the States and the Federal Government and various community groups. Heroin overdose deaths among 15 to 44 year olds fell from 958 in 1999 to 725 in 2000, which is a drop of almost 25%. And the early signs in relation to subsequent years are also very encouraging. Now I’m not saying all of that is due to the campaign, but some of it is. And once again I don’t know that all of you would have perhaps thought that. You would have perhaps been persuaded by some of the headlines that the heroin, the deaths were continuing to rise, and the thing was careering out of control and you know, why don’t they just sort of give it all away and stop wasting our


time and our money? Now that is not the reality, as those figures demonstrate. And in 2000/2001 there were 30,000 treatments provided to drug users by the 133 Tough on Drugs funded treatment services, and that was up to about 19,000 in the previous year. So this is the rehabilitation treatment side of the equation starting to break through and starting to have an effect in our community. I mean we are a society that is interested in outcomes. It’s all very well to make a fine speech and explain the theory but you want to know, is it working? Now the cautious claim I make is that is is beginning to work. I don’t put it any more strongly than that. And I do want to thank the community groups that have played such a very big part in the campaign. And I do especially want to thank Brian who provides magnificent leadership to the Council on Drugs and is a real power of strength and consistency and personal commitment to fighting this problem.

I was also very encouraged by the results of the material we distributed. I remember launching that booklet, and I think it was out in West Ryde in Sydney one Sunday morning. We got a bit of a rubbishing from a few of the usual suspects who said, you know this is another waste of Government money, and he’s off on a delusion and it makes him feel good, or something or other. It was nothing of the kind. And the survey results - compiled independently, they weren’t compiled by my office or by the Liberal Party or anything like that, they were done quite independently - and what it had to say was that as a result of that campaign, of people surveyed 78 percent of parents had talked to their children about drugs during the campaign period, and they’d clearly been influenced by this literature, by the advertisements on television and the literature that had arrived in their mailboxes. And 71% of 15 to 17 year olds said that advice from my parents had steered me away from drugs. The interesting thing about that statistic is that for all that we read that doom and disaster has descended upon the Australian family and the influence of the family is disintegrating, the fact is that most young people are still more likely to be influenced by their parents and by their siblings than by anybody else. And that the capacity of parents and siblings to influence to the better the behaviour of their children and their younger brothers and sisters, is still an enormously potent force. It doesn’t always work. They’re not always very good role models. We all know that. But in the great majority of cases, they still remain the most potent influence for good and for changed behaviour, and this is what that campaign was designed to do.

Now today I’m announcing the funding of a further 18 organisations to receive community partnership initiative funding. Now this is an element of the overall Tough on Drugs campaign, and what we’re doing is we’re funding particular local initiatives. Drug-Arm, a great organisation run here in Queensland by Dennis Young, is a great organisation and it’s going to benefit from today’s announcement.

The Ipswich Caring Community Project, a very local project right here in this part of Queensland, has been designed to bring together supporting members of the community and young people who are likely to experience the problems of drugs and crime. And that project will include business and community leaders, Government and non-Government agencies, juvenile justice, the Magistrate’s Court, the Children’s Court, the Ipswich City Council, teachers and churches. And it will help to defuse the tense situation that has developed from a group of aggressive young people where there is a high risk of assault and further assaults taking place. And a Youth Committee will be established to drive the project comprising of young people and community leaders.

And as part of today’s announcement, as Brian alluded to, some $80,000 will go to Intjartnama Aboriginal Corporation and the Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and


Support Services. And this will support what’s called the Talking Up Life Stories with Young People project, to encourage young people to speak out about their own drugs problem.

Since we started our Tough on Drugs initiative, we have funded 116 projects in a mix of metropolitan, rural and regional locations throughout Australia. And these projects have included community development, training schemes, peer education programmes for young people and parents, and the dissemination of information. As Brian Watters rightly said, the Government, the law enforcement authorities, can’t maintain this campaign on their own. We’re not good enough to do it all on our own. We can provide, and we should, a lot of financial support. We can give our very strong legal and moral support to the law enforcement authorities, but we can’t comprehensively prosecute the campaign without the involvement of local community groups, of churches, of sporting organisations, and very importantly, of parents. And that is why within this year’s Budget, the Government announced further funding of $14 million over four years to the Community Partnerships Initiative of which the initiatives involving some $1.36 million that I’m announcing today, form part.

Very importantly, our research has told us that if we invest early in preventative projects, the dividends out of that can be very significant. We all know that from our life’s experience. You don’t need a researcher to tell you that if you invest in preventative action at an early stage, you are far more successful than if you try to put together the pieces after somebody’s life has been shattered, and in many cases tragically ruined.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am personally very committed to the Tough on Drugs campaign. I’ve had a very deep personal involvement in it stretching back to 1997 when I decided that the Federal Government had to do more. It is something that is above party politics to me. I will go anywhere with any Member of the opposite side of politics to me in order to secure a good outcome in the campaign against drugs, because we are talking about the moral and social fabric of our society. We are talking about the impact on young lives. We are talking about the safety of old people, which is often now not as easy to take for granted because they are subject to assault from people who are desperate for the money in order to feed their drug habit.

So there’s a lot of communities involved within this and there’s a lot at stake. And I want to thank everybody who has been involved. I do again want to thank you Brian for your personal commitment and leadership. You have my total and very enthusiastic support in the leadership that you are giving to the campaign. I want to thank the Seventh Day Adventist community of Ipswich and also the Mormon community of Ipswich for their very, very warm welcome and that beautiful singing which is really a reminder better than anything I could say about what this campaign is all about. It’s making sure that those young children go through their lives free of the scourge of drugs and they don’t have visited upon them the tragedy that has ruined so many other young lives in Australia and brought such enormous grief and heartache to their parents and their friends.

Thank you.