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Tuesday, 22 August 1972
Page: 282


Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - It is some little while since we were debating this report. It would have been very nice to have been able to conclude the remarks on 17th August but it was not possible. I am speaking now on the basis that this will be the final observation, I trust, upon the matter. I am making these remarks on behalf of the responsible Minister who is the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) in the other place.

There is no necessity for me to convince honourable senators of the danger that drug abuse poses for the Australian community today. One has only to look at many overseas countries to see just how depressing and economically debilitating the problem can become.

I do not believe that any honourable senator will disagree with me when I say that there is as yet no apparent solution to the problem. It is to be hoped that in the final analysis a complete remedy will be found not only in enforcement or in treatment or rehabilitation but also through an improved environment and education in the home.

This Government has continually acknowledged the need for both long term and short term programmes in an effort to solve the problem. It has implemented long term projects in the area of education and research. However, if these, together with the many treatment and rehabilitation programmes introduced by State governments are to succeed every effort must be made in the short term through intensive enforcement effort to check the growth of the problem. When the Senate established a committee to inquire into and report on the problem the terms of reference were realistically wide to ensure that all of the aspects - education, enforcement, treatment, etc. - were fully explored. The energy with which members of the Committee tackled this task and the depth of the examination they gave to the problem can be best gauged by quoting from portion of the introduction to their report:

The inquiry was launched with the first public hearing on 27th January 1970. Since that time 213 witnesses have appeared before the Committee and the transcript of their evidence totalled over 6,400 pages.

I am sure all honourable senators will agree that to do this and at the completion produce such a comprehensive and detailed report in little more than 12 months was indeed an excellent achievement which reflects great credit on the Committee and in particular on the Chairman, my colleague, Senator Marriott. The value and acceptance of the Committee's report has been highlighted by previous speakers. The fact that it has had the second highest sales of any report presented by a select committee of Parliament reflects this acknowledgement. Accordingly, it would be remiss of me to let this occasion pass without commending Senator Marriott and his Committee for their valuable work not only to this Parliament but also to the people of Australia.

I interpolate only for myself as a member of the Senate to say that I am very proud to belong to such a Senate and proud to be associated with Senator Marriott and his colleagues who did what I believe was a first class job for the people of Australia and for their colleagues in this honourable place. But I think that people have acknowledged that adequately and I think that all the honourable senators concerned with this report would understand what people thought about their efforts. Those senators who have already spoken in this debate have in many instances referred to specific recommendations made by the Committee and approximately 8 months ago my colleagues the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) and the Minister for Customs and Excise circulated an information paper to all members of Parliament detailing action being taken on the report.

Senator Marriottin his speech on 17th August 1972 informed the Senate of the current position so far as the Committee's recommendations are concerned. For these reasons I do not propose canvassing any particular section of the report but would like to take the opportunity to outline briefly some of the more significant measures that have been taken by the Government in the past 2 years to combat this growing menace.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

Major stepshave been taken to improve co-operation between enforcement authorities in Australia and overseas. Last year the Commonwealth hosted a conference of enforcement officials from 14 nations in the South East Asian region to discuss ways to improve co-operation and coordination of efforts against illicit traffic within the region. The conference was also attended by observers from the United Nations, Interpol and the United States of America.

EDUCATION

The Commonwealth has already provided Sim for drug education. A further $500,000 has been approved for the current financial year. The majority of this money has been given to the States to carry out recommended drug programmes as approved by the Education SubCommittee of the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence. The projects have included educational programmes in schools and a series of youth seminars in all States culminating with a national youth seminar here in Canberra.

CONTROL OF LICIT DRUG DISTRIBUTION

In co-operation with the States the Commonwealth has established a computerised system to monitor all drug transactions from the point of importation and/or manufacture to retail distribution. This system is providing authorities with an excellent means of studying the patterns of drug usage in Australia and in addition guards against the diversion of licitly imported or manufactured drugs into the illicit market. It will readily be seen that much of this activity is in clear accord with many of the Committee's recommendations. Undoubtedly in some instances the recommendations prompted either the commencement or acceleration of certain projects. As I stated in my opening remarks, the problem of drug abuse today poses a serious danger to the Australian community. It is a problem which needs to be attacked at all levels in the community - by this Government, by State governments, by community leaders and even more importantly, within the family environment. The Senate Select Committee in its report and recommendations to this Parliament and the people of Australia has given valuable guidance for possible action in these areas.

As all honourable senators know, Senator Murphy has moved an amendment to Senator Marriott's motion. The original motion was:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The amendment is:

Add the words - and that the medical, social environmental, and legal aspects of the report and recommendations of the Committee be referred to the Standing Com mittees on Health and Welfare, the Social Environment, and Constitutional and Legal Affairs respectively, and that those 3 Committees be authorised to undertake the continuing oversight of those aspects and to recommend from time to time what further measures might be taken to implement the recommendations or to overcome the problems revealed in the report'.

We would have pleasure in accepting that amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.







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