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Working Group welcomes $4.3 million national strategy to tackle illicit drugs.



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Minister for Justice and Customs

Joint Media Release

Senator the Hon Christopher Ellison Minister for Justice and Customs Senator for Western Australia

The Hon Trish Worth MP Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing

26 June 2003

Working Group welcomes $4.3 million national strategy to tackle illicit drugs

The National Working Group on the Diversion of Precursor Chemicals is set to play a key role in the implementation of the Howard Government's $4.3 million national strategy to combat the manufacture of illicit drugs.

The Working Group met today for the first time since the Government announced funding in the recent Federal Budget for a national strategy to prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals, including over-the-counter medicines, into the manufacture of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS).

Today's meeting was held on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. This is an annual United Nations event marking a determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.

The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said the Working Group was established last year to provide a nationally coordinated approach to stop over-the-counter medicines and other chemical precursors being diverted into illicit drug manufacture. The Working Group includes representatives from Commonwealth, State and Territory law enforcement and health and industry groups.

"The Working Group is an important forum for law enforcement and the chemical and pharmaceutical industry to consider practical approaches to deal with diversion," Senator Ellison said.

"As part of the 2003-04 Budget, the Government has made a commitment of $12 million to develop key new supply reduction measures, including the national precursor chemicals strategy."

Senator Ellison said these measures would:

● prevent chemicals being diverted into illicit drug manufacture;

● support national monitoring of illicit drug use, markets and criminal

activity; and ● tackle money laundering associated with drug trafficking, particularly

the production and distribution of psychostimulants.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Trish Worth, said that like the UN, the Australian Government remained committed to tackling the problems created by illicit drugs.

Since 1997, the Government has allocated more than $1 billion to the National Illicit Drug Strategy "Tough on Drugs" for a range of supply reduction and demand reduction measures.

"It is very appropriate for the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to coincide with Drug Action Week," Ms Worth said.

Drug Action Week is a national week of activities to raise awareness about alcohol and drug issues and to promote the achievements of those working to reduce drug related harm. Drug Action Week is an initiative of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia.

"The increased use of psychostimulant drugs, and in particular, more harmful forms of these drugs such as methamphetamine have significant health and social implications for drug users, service providers and the broader community," Ms Worth said.

"Amphetamine-Type Stimulants are the theme of day four of Drug Action Week. It provides an opportunity to share knowledge and information about this increasing problem in Australia, and indeed the rest of the world."

As part of the 2003-04 Budget, the Government has allocated $14.2 million for a range of new measures to address public health issues, including $2 million over two years for a National Psychostimulants Initiative to address problems associated with the increased availability and use of psychostimulants.

"This funding will enable us to make a concerted effort to address this increasing problem in Australia," Ms Worth said.

The Government welcomes the many recent indicators of the effectiveness of its "Tough on Drugs" Strategy, including data on illicit drug seizures and marked falls in heroin overdose deaths. In light of these indicators, the Government remains firmly convinced that "Tough on Drugs" is right for Australia.

Media inquiries: Mairi Barton Ph 02/6277 7260 or 0439 300 335 (Senator Ellison) Mark Williams Ph 02/6277 4337 or 0401 147 558 (Ms Worth)

Last Modified: Thursday 26, June 2003