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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 1628


Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - On 7th May 1971, over 12 months ago, the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse was presented. Senator Marriott, the Chairman of that Committee, spoke on the report. I think that it was a premature presentation for the purpose of permitting Senator Branson to say a few words as he was retiring as a senator at the end of that session. From what I recall of Senator Branson's speech, he offered high praise of my activities on that Committee. I then received the call to speak, not for the purpose of delaying the Senate on the presentation of the report on that occasion but only to express my appreciation of the words expressed by Senator Branson as to my assistance on that Committee. As it was towards the end of the session all parties agreed that the discussion on the report be adjourned. But no-one in his wildest imagination thought that the adjournment would be for 12 months.

The Committee commenced taking evidence in December 1969, and 12 months after its first meeting, to the day, it concluded the taking of public evidence on drug trafficking and drug abuse. After a lot of deliberation it submitted a report.

Recent investigation has disclosed that the report is the second best seller of any report that has been presented by a select committee of the Parliament. I believe that the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution has sold more copies than has the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse.


Senator Mulvihill - I am very happy about that.


Senator CAVANAGH - 1 give Senator Mulvihill credit for being a member of the Committee which produced such a good report. But of no mean order is the desire of the public to learn of the findings of the Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. Only the week before last 1 was approached by the Methodist Church in South Australia to endeavour to get 150 copies of the report for the Flinders Street Methodist Church which is conducting a counselling service. It intends to train counsellors who will mix with the young folk of Adelaide to try to dissuade them from taking drugs. The Church thought that the best textbook for the training of counsellors was the Committee's report. Being a religious and charitable organisation, it could not afford the SI. 50 which is necessary to purchase a copy of the report from any of the Government agencies, so I was asked to make representations for the purpose of obtaining free copies for that counselling service. The Church desired to give a copy to each of the 150 students who were taking the drug counselling course.


Senator Little - Does it cost only $1.50 a copy?


Senator CAVANAGH - I believe that the reports are cheaper to buy in Adelaide.


Senator Little - I would say that it was cheap when compared with the 'Little Red Schoolbook', which costs $1.75 a copy.


Senator CAVANAGH - Senator Littlewould agree with me that it is a more preferable document than the 'Little Red Schoolbook'. It is unfortunate that that book has become such an obsession in his mind that every other publication has to be compared with it. The Committee's report illustrated some of the evils of our modern society. Thousands of voluntary organisations in Australia are trying to assist youth, in particular, to walk the path of avoidance of drug taking, which we see escalating in our capital cities at present. Because of the desire of the Methodist Church in Adelaide to have 150 copies for 150 students who are undergoing a study course at that Church, I made representation to the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). I was informed that there are only 1,000 copies left in print in Australia and therefore it was impossible to give one organisation 150 copies of the remaining 1,000. The Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health, Senator Marriott, who was Chairman of the Committee, arranged to make available free of charge to that organisation 25 copies.

When one sees the value that an organisation such as that places on the report, and when one sees the value that the obtaining of the report would be to such an organisation, one wonders why money is expended on other forms of drug education while there is a restriction on the availability of the report which, in the opinion of individuals who claim to be authorities on drug prevention, is the most up to date and the best textbook that they could have for study by those who will be counsellors in the field of drug prevention. 1 note that a considerable sum has been spent on drug prevention education, but I wonder whether it would be better to spend more on publication of this report and allow free distribution to agencies which seek to use it for the sole purpose of educating their counsellors to assist those who wish to fight the scourge of drug taking which is prevalent in Australia at present. Much of the Commonwealth's expenditure on drug prevention has been wasteful expenditure.

Evidence was given to the Committee that a film had been produced at very great expense by, I think, the Apex Club of Sydney. I know that Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield was responsible for that film being screened throughout South Australia. The drug educationists in the States condemned the film because it could possibly tempt youth to take drugs rather than deter youth from taking drugs. Evidence was given by Bobby Limb who, in consultation with a psychiatrist in New South Wales, had gone to a certain extent in the production of a film. That film was modified greatly and altered at the request of Mr Chipp, the Minister for Customs and Excise, to make it suitable for showing. The film was called The Acid Test'. It was condemned by the Department of Health in Western Australia and by Dr Bartholomew in Victoria. Those interested in education against drug abuse condemned the expenditure by the Commonwealth Government because the film was more likely to incite rather than repel a desire for drugs. Therefore, without the advice of qualified experts, we can well vote large sums and the expenditure would not have any beneficial results.

During the debate on a Bill, the name of which I forget, I spoke about the Committee's findings in relation to drugs. I should apologise for the quality of my speech tonight because it was only as I was walking into the chamber tonight that I was informed that the report was to be debated. I said that I was prepared to speak on it if I could be given time to get the papers which I have in my office. I forgot that I had changed offices. Because of a lack of assistance to get my office in order, it is impossible to find anything there at present. From memory, the Committee found that the taking of narcotic drugs by Australian youth was insignificant when compared with the taking of narcotic drugs by the Australian adult population. Unfortunately, statistics on crime and convictions indicate that there is an increase in the incidence of drug taking by Australian youth. The increase in the number of convictions could be due partly to the increase in size of the drug squads, which has led to more investigation, more detection and more arrests. It could be due also to the fact that in Australia the smoking or possession of marihuana is now recognised as being illegal.

At one time marihuana was not known and one never knew whether the fellow one passed in the street was smoking a home made cigarette or a marihuana cigarette. At the time that the Committee took evidence, the smoking of marihuana was not illegal in South Australia. The question has since been raised of altering the South Australian drugs legislation. In South Australia until early 1971 no conviction could be obtained for smoking marihuana. The

Committee found that drug taking starts in a person's life in the mysterious decade between the age of IS and 25 years. I refer not only to narcotics but also to alcohol and tobacco. A list of drugs influencing the death rate in Australia would be headed by nicotine. Therefore the greatest peril through drug taking for the population of Australia lies in cigarette smoking.

The Committee recommended in its report that the taxation deduction allowed to tobacco companies for the advertising of tobacco and cigarettes should be disallowed. The Commonwealth today through allowing that taxation deduction is subsidising the tobacco companies in the promotion of their product which is damaging the lives of Australian citizens. The Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has not adopted the Committee's recommendation but has announced that the Commonwealth wilt act to enforce the printing of a warning on cigarette packets, and the broadcasting and televising of a similar warning.

It has been stated in the Senate as justification for not prohibiting the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco on television and radio - the media over which the Commonwealth has control - that in other countries in which a ban was placed on the television and radio advertising of cigarettes the sales of cigarettes and tobacco were not curtailed. Therefore, if cigarette advertising is banned on one medium, the expenditure on such advertising on another medium, is increased. If it does not go through one channel, it goes through another channel. We are to warn people that cigarette smoking is a danger to health.


Senator Webster - We are not going to put a warning on cigars. We would not think of that.


Senator CAVANAGH - The Committee did not receive much evidence about whether the smoking of cigars involves more or less danger than the smoking of cigarettes. The Commonwealth has a vested interest in this question because of the excise duty collected on imported tobacco. Contributions by tobacco companies to political' parties could well make those parties very hesitant to create any

Impediment to the right of those companies to sell their product. It seems that a secondary consideration is the health of the people of Australia. We are subsidising the growing and marketing of tobacco in Australia. I do not know whether the tobacco growing district in Queensland has a Liberal or Labor representative, but it would be political suicide to suggest curtailment of tobacco consumption in Australia.


Senator Webster - We are not subsidising tobacco growing.


Senator CAVANAGH - We are giving a subsidy to tobacco marketing.


Senator Webster - No - we are assuring a sale.


Senator CAVANAGH - The stage is reached at which public health is a secondary consideration. This raises the question of whether it is democracy as we know it to protect the public - whether we must protect the public interest for our own preservation. While it is established that tobacco is the biggest cause of death in Australia, through numerous complaints, it is also established that about 5 per cent of the population of Australia become total and hopeless drug addicts through alcohol. The second biggest curse in Australia in the field of drugs is alcohol. People in Australia in the mysterious decade between the ages of 15 years and 25 years partake of drugs of one sort or another, whether heroin, other various narcotics and drugs, or alcohol.

We hear a lot of talk today about heroin and other narcotics that are used, but at any bar in Australia more young people between the ages of 15 years and 25 years are to be found drinking liquor than are to be found smoking harmful drugs at any narcotics pad. Alcohol is still the danger. It has been suggested that our youth take alcohol because it is an adult thing to do. They believe that they can present themselves as adults by taking alcohol. It was suggested to the Committee that our youth between the ages of 15 years and 25 years have a great many problems on their mind with which they are unable to cope. It is said that they must escape from the problems that are bearing them down, with which they cannot manage, in the decade from 15 years to 25 years-

Some of them escape through belief in a superior being. They turn to religion as a distraction from the worries and burdens imposed upon them. If we are to help them, we must first identify the problems. In that decade a youth has his introduction to sexual life. It is an age at which a youth is searching to find a partner in life and to establish a home. Possibly he is attempting to advance his education or to find his place in industry. It is the age at which he is called upon to take part in the alleged defence of Australia, whether on our own shores or on a foreign shore. He has to cope with all these problems.

Government action cannot help with some of those problems. It is not possible to transfer his introduction to sex to another age, and possibly the establishment of a home and the finding of a partner in life cannot be delayed until later in his life. As was stated in evidence to the Committee, our youth between the ages of 15 years and 25 years represent the most exploited section of industry in Australia. The Government could by legislation at least give some relief from that position. The Government could also transfer to a later age the establishment of a home. There is no reason why a man at 30 years of age cannot defend this country as well as a man of 25 years. At the age of 30 years a man should be sufficiently matured to cope with the burdens of society which, at an earlier age, force him to seek escape in drugs.

If we accept the recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse, the question that arises does not concern condemnation of or penalties against youthful drug addicts. It is not a question of prohibiting the activities of tobacco companies, although I think that some restraint should be placed upon them. The concern must be to remove from society the problems that cause people to become drug takers. That is the duty of the Government. It is the question that we must consider. We must create an attitude of mind so that people live in modern society and do not try to escape from modern society by drug taking.

As I have said, the average youth takes drugs of some description between the ages of 15 and 25. We are told that, at the age of 25, most persons who in their youth took drugs - be those drugs alcohol, heroin or certain other drugs, including drugs of addiction, which have not had a detrimental effect upon their health - find that they have solved the problems that forced them into drug taking and discontinue the habit. lt is possible that because of responsibilities assumed these persons overcome their problems. But 5 per cent of those of this age who have taken drugs cannot discontinue drug taking. We discover that in our socio-economic strata of society, in proportion to their numbers, doctors are the greatest addicts of any section of the Australian community. These are educated men who have reached the heights of their profession. They have been a success in life and have academic achievements. They have good practices. But they are unable to give up drug taking and they are reduced to mental and physical wrecks.

Representatives of the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists gave evidence before the Senate Select Committee to the effect that the drug problem of each of those doctors could be traced to a trauma in early childhood. A disturbed childhood was responsible for the inability of an adult over the age of 25 years being unable to give up drug taking. Surprisingly, the evidence was that the most vital years in a person's life are those between birth and attaining 3 years of age. The period between birth and attaining 6 years of age is important, but the period between birth and attaining 3 years of age is the most important.

I questioned one of these witnesses to the effect that there must be some starting point and that he could not put forward the proposition that a new born baby was capable of determining what would be its future attitudes. I was told that the rejection of or willingness to co-operate with society at an adult age is decided by a baby's rejection or acceptance by those around it in the age period that I have mentioned.

This trend can be detected in schools. Opinions can be formulated as to possible drug addicts of tomorrow. It is possible to formulate knowledge as to those who, at the age of 7, at school, are prepared to cooperate with the authorities and those who are prepared to revolt. In most cases, the attitude of revolt can be rectified by child psychiatrists or child psychologists. But . in Australia, other than 3 persons in the New South Wales Department of Education, persons with these qualifications are not available. Even though this problem area can be detected, we have no method of rectifying it and we condemn in youth habits which we could have prevented by treatment in early childhood. We do nothing to prevent these attitudes developing.

I believe that in Czechoslovakia in the war years it was necessary for all women to work and for all children to be put in creches. Evidence was discovered 20 years later that a problem had been created for society because of the unco-operative individuals who were the product of those war years. Rather than the creation of creches, it was found necessary to finance agencies to look after children while their mothers worked. The mothers had to work during the war period. In Australia we hear agitation for the provision of more child minding centres and condemnation of the Government because it has not adopted the Gorton proposal on child minding centres. But one wonders whether the adoption of that proposal might not create a bigger problem than any problem which its acceptance would solve.

Whether we like it or not, women in the future will be working in industry. They will be Australia's future mothers, but they will be going to work. The suggestion that we make is that some establishment should be provided in each factory for the purpose of looking after their children while those women work. The evidence of the psychiatrists was that danger arises when proportionately in excess of 3 children are being brought up by one adult. Is the Commonwealth proposal in respect of child minding centres to pay for at least one adult for every 3 children at a child minding centre? We could well be creating a bigger problem by seeking to meet the need for child minding centres. Surely, on future legislation, the Senate should give consideration to these matters. 1 return to my earlier point that, after attaining the age of 25 years, 5 per cent of the population cannot discontinue drug taking. These people should not be condemned for continuing to take drugs because somewhere in their childhood is to be found the cause of their present drug taking habits. The average person who over-indulges in alcohol - be it on social occasions, for company, for pleasure or because he likes alcohol - some day realises his position. He realises that he is going too far and that his over-indulgence is breaking up his family or impairing his health. We find therefore that the average person either reduces his intake of alcohol or gives it away completely. He may, of course, adopt some method by which he gives it away for a period. But, as I have said, 5 per cent of those over the age of 25 years cannot achieve any control of their drug taking habits because their needs were neglected in early childhood. So, society faces the problem.

Of the people in this 5 per cent category who become confirmed alcoholics or confirmed drug takers - I exclude from this group a section of middle aged women with whom I will try to deal directly if time permits - for some unknown reason 4 per cent do give up their addiction during the period that they are addicted. The first essential recognised in hospitals or referral centres today in the rehabilitation of a drug taker is that he must have the desire to discontinue the drug taking before any treatment can bc successful. A change must occur in his state of mind or in his attitude.

Persons who had been drug takers gave evidence before the Senate Select Committee. Some accepted religion as the light that caused them to give up drug taking. Others discontinued drug taking for the love of a woman, a partner in life or for some other similar reason. These people have reasons for discontinuing the habit. But in none of these categories is the number of persons giving up drug taking increasing. The biggest success in this field is being achieved by the Alcoholics Anonymous organisation.

Alcoholics Anonymous has had great success because it is an organisation that attracts only those people who have resolved in their own minds the futility and danger of taking alcohol to excess and have reached the stage of being prepared to give it up. Therefore, while we acclaim the success of Alcoholics Anonymous, the number of people who give up alcohol is not increasing. The fact is that more of them attribute their abstention to Alcoholics Anonymous rather than to such things as religion and love of a woman. In spite of the development of hospitals and methods of treatment, nothing has been found to alleviate very much the plight of people addicted to drugs. This is a problem that must be considered.

I sound a warning about another group of people in Australia who take drugs. They are mostly middle-aged females whose children have grown up. Suffering from boredom, they take analgesics and bromides in one form or another to relieve mental stress. Some 5 per cent of our population are in hospitals throughout Australia suffering from renal diseases caused by heavy consumption of analgesics. Dr Patricia Kincaid Smith of the Melbourne Hospital, who is internationally renowned as an authority on kidney complaints, points out that throughout Australia people are being kept alive at terrific cost on kidney machines, waiting for someone to be killed so that they may get a healthy kidney by transplant. It costs some $500 a day to keep such a person alive. The analgesics they have taken to excess are available at corner stores, chemist shops, hotels and service stations, the Parliamentary bar, and even as a bargain sample at Woolworths. The drug houses have launched big publicity campaigns to induce the Australian public to swallow their analgesics, though they will ruin their health. The average citizen in our society cannot resist this publicity. The position became so alarming that the PostmasterGeneral called a voluntary conference to draw up a code of ethics on the advertising of such products. The conference decided that certain words such as 'infallible' and 'it is a cure', used in advertising were objectionable in not stating the truth, and were inducing people to take analgesics to excess. They cannot be used in television advertising today.

The advertising technique is now different. Now these drugs do not cure and they are not infallible. Instead, they soothe away the pain. To say that an analgesic is a safe and sure relief from pain is false advertising. The drug houses of Australia are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in boosting these products, which are poisoning thousands of people, but the

Government will do nothing at all about it. The drug houses employ one detailer to every 8 doctors. The detailer's job is to get the doctors to take the product of the particular drug company. In Australia, medical practitioners receive no instruction in pharmacology when going through their course at the university. They learn from textbooks that certain drugs will ease or cure certain complaints, but they are not familiar with new drugs that are being introduced. Their only source of knowledge on the subject is the advertisements in medical journals and the descriptions given by the detailer. On previous occasions in this chamber I have said that drug companies have advertised as harmless and relief-giving products drugs that 3 years before were condemned by international health authorities as harmful to health. In the medical journals of Australia one sees advertisements such as 'Stock and display drug A, and count your profits and smile as you go to the bank.' There are an inducement to the chemist to push the product on to the people to the detriment of their health. The only thing that matters to the drug company is a big return. Surely some restriction must be imposed on this form of advertising by the drug companies, virtually all of which I believe are owned overseas.

The Committee received evidence about a Victorian country doctor who was given a sales talk by a drug company detailer about the health-giving properties of a particular drug and its ability to cure certain complaints. This doctor described himself as one who had seen too many persons die from taking too many drugs. When old people had died, he had seen vast quantities of drugs by their bedside, and he was firmly of opinion that many deaths would not have occurred without an excess of drugs. When he refused to prescribe more drugs for patients, they would go to another doctor and get the necessary prescriptions. Telling the story of a detailer who had presented a certain drug, he said that he would not prescribe the drug until he got an opinion from a specialist of his acquaintence in Melbourne. This specialist told him that the drug in question was highly dangerous and ought not to be prescribed at all. The doctor referred the matter to the Commonwealth Drug Evaluation Committee, and after 2 months the drug was put on the prohibited list and medical practitioners were no longer allowed to prescribe it. Doctors with inadequate training in pharmacology had not known whether that drug was good or bad. All they had to go on was the word of the detailer, who is a salesman rather than an authority on drugs. That is the position of health services in Australia today.

The report of the Committee suggests that statistics - there are no reliable statistics - should be established straight away. The consumption of analgesics in Australia is a major cause of kidney damage. In Australian post mortem examinations it has been found that one death in 7 was due to kidney damage, compared to one in 30 in America. This leads to the conclusion that Australia is the greatest race of drug addicts or pill takers in the world. We have a greater addiction to drug taking than any other population. We are not imposing restrictions on the use of analgesics. We are creating a psychology that we should not suffer pain, that we should not put up with the problems of life but that we should seek an escape on every occasion.

We see advertisements that a certain drug is necessary when driving over long distances to prevent weariness. There is an advertisement that when sitting in the sun by the swimming pool, to stop the glare of the sun a certain preparation must be swallowed. This permits us to sit by the swimming pool and see the bathing beauties who go into the water without the glare of the sun affecting our eyes. We are even told that it is necessary for good health to take vitamin tablets. But the Australian diet makes that entirely unnecessary.

This promotion is forced on us by drug companies with a vested interest. The Government is unable to restrain such advertising because it has a vested, interest in the revenue produced by advertising such drugs. Therefore if we look . at the drug problem we find no solution in penalties. We find no solution in prosecutions. If an individual wants to do something the deterrent aspect of the possible penalty does not concern him. He is of the belief that he will never get caught. But he does get caught. We have increased the penalties but we find that we have nowhere to put the offender except in a gaol among hardened criminals. He will mix with other drug takers who can supply information as to where the next drugs can be obtained when he is released. We are not looking at the problems and stresses of society which one meets every day and which cause one to seek an escape The individual seeks to escape from those problems which he finds burdensome. We have been told that we have reached the stage of our development where the success or failure of government is based on the monetary development of the country. Whether the government is good or bad, whether it justifies rejection or retention is counted on last year's gross national product. So if the Government can increase the gross national product of last year it is worthy of preservation. Noone has considered how much it has contributed to welfare or social justice.

Today we are reaching the moon. While we are seeking every avenue of development which may be polluting the air, noone has questioned whether the member of society with the highest standard of living has any greater enjoyment of life than his grandfather had 2 generations ago. There is a feeling that perhaps we should call a halt to our efforts to put astronauts on the moon. Perhaps we should call a halt to our development. But above all the value of a government should be decided by its contribution to the welfare and social success of society rather than by the advancement of industrial techniques.

I conclude by saying that it is very disappointing that of the recommendations of the Committee - which I see number 26 and which follow a well set out statement of evidence - very few have been put into effect. The Committee gives a warning about Commonwealth expenditure on education. The question has been asked whether this is right or whether it could do more harm. Today an allegation has been made about expenditure without full knowledge of those who have the responsibility of expending the money. The matter of a deterrent to stop tobacco companies advertising their wares and promoting the use of their product has been raised. The suggestion has been that a warning be placed on the packet - which no-one will read - that there is a danger to health from the particular cigarettes. Possibly it has reached the stage where we cannot impose a complete ban. This is one of the socially acceptable drugs of our society. We cannot put a complete ban on it and therefore we should seriously seek to curb the activities of tobacco companies.

In Australia the suicide rate is possibly increasing to a greater degree than in most countries. The increasing suicide rate is due to overdoses of drugs. A young lass because her parents forbid her to go out with a particular boy friend will, in desperation, go in and swallow a handful of drugs and it is necessary to use a stomach pump to revive her. There is the frustrated individual who knows no other remedy than to take a handful of drugs. There is the aged person who takes a prescribed drug and does not know whether he took his dose that night so be takes another dose to make sure. To prevent this impulsive taking of drugs because of an emotional upset the Committee recommended that drug tablets should be singly wrapped so that those seeking to take a fatal dose would take so long to undo them that the emotional upset would be overcome during that time. What has been done to adopt or consider these recommendations? There has been no prevention. The suggestion of the Committee in relation to prevention has not been implemented. By taking such action the Government would prevent what is occurring and reduce the toll of life in Australia. Unfortunately, it is not all old life that is being lost. The Committee found that there was a greater dependence upon medically prescribed drugs than non-medically prescribed drugs and a greater dependence upon legally medically prescribed drugs than upon imported prohibited drugs.

Debate interrupted.







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