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Tough on drugs: Vanstone's got to be kidding?

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The Hon Duncan Kerr MP

Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs

Shadow Minister for the Arts




19 November 1998




The Howard Government’s claim to be Tough on Drugs does not match the reality, according to the Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs, Duncan Kerr. Mr Kerr’s comments follow reports in today’s Daily Telegraph and The Australian which show that despite hard drugs being readily available to 12 year olds, the Government is proposing to reduce Customs services by ‘searching’ ships coming into Australia by fax or e-mail.


“The Howard Government’s ongoing cuts prove that their claim to be Tough on Drugs is just empty rhetoric,” Mr Kerr said. “It is simply laughable to suggest that you can adequately monitor the entry into Australia of illicit drugs by fax or e-mail.


“Senator Vanstone will undoubtedly point to recent large drug seizures in her defence but the strong anecdotal evidence is that those seizures have had little or no impact on the price or quality of hard drugs, like heroin, on our streets.


“This can only mean that these drugs are either already available in Australia in such large quantities or are so readily capable of being replaced by fresh imports that these significant seizures have had no effect. If that is true then the Government’s Tough on Drugs policy is a complete and utter failure.


“Tackling the problems caused by drugs in our society requires a sophisticated approach.


“First, effective measures must be put in place to help reduce the amount of drugs coming into Australia and to catch and punish those who seek to profiteer from this pernicious trade. This is only possible when our law enforcement agencies, like the AFP and Customs, are properly resourced.


“Secondly, we must reduce demand by educating all Australians, particularly the young, about the effect of both licit and illicit drugs. To do this, we have to better understand why people are using drugs and design community education and information programs to address those concerns.


“Thirdly, we have to accept the reality that a wide range of illicit drugs are readily available on the streets and develop harm minimisation programs that are credible with those who occasionally or more frequently use them.


“And finally, we have to resource a range of sentencing and harm reduction options to help people to get off drugs or, where that is not possible, control their drug habits. Labor’s support for Drug Courts is an indication of the innovative thinking we are doing in this area.”


Duncan Kerr is available on (03) 6234 5255 or 0418 125 161