Wednesday, 18 March 2009
I would like to speak this morning on the matter of illicit drugs. This morning in the Australian there was a highly-concerning report on the front page suggesting that the government is pursuing the failed and generally discredited harm minimisation approach to dealing with drugs. I hope that this is not true. Instead, the government should be pursuing the harm prevention approach. I personally advocate the harm prevention approach, which I also call the ‘no surrender’ approach. That, in my mind, includes three main strategies: to stop supply; to educate people; and to rehabilitate users through enforced treatment, either by sanctions or otherwise, and through testing, to make sure that there is actually going to be progress.
I would like to acknowledge the great work done by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Human Services, with their 2007 report The winnable war on drugsbecause the day that we think that we can no longer win is the day that we surrender, and I would hate to see that day. The report made a number of recommendations. There are just over 30 recommendations. I would certainly like to endorse the permanent removal of children from drug-addicted parents. I would also like to endorse restrictions on methadone programs and the absolute elimination of funding for harm minimisation programs or harm minimisation publications. I believe that these are important steps forward to address the drug situation in this country.
A lot has been said in the parliament recently about another drug—that being the legal drug of alcohol. The government is pursuing the approach of taxation to try to deal with the issue of binge drinking. I would like to see the day when we pass legislation which would restrict the alcohol content of drinks. If the government is really keen on dealing with this binge-drinking problem it might consider, as some have advocated, raising the drinking age to 21. I am sure that that would be extremely unpopular, but it may help. Ultimately these things are about free choice, but in the case of illicit drugs I think the hard line needs to be taken of harm prevention and never harm minimisation or harm reduction—or, otherwise, surrender to the scourge of illicit drugs.