Shadow Minster for Justice, David Feeney, and Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Jones, have called on the Abbott Government to reassess their Budget cuts to illicit drugs programs following the release of an alarming Crime Commission Report.
The latest Illicit Drug Data report, released today, draws on data from law enforcement, health services and academic material concerning Australia’s illicit drug market. The report concludes that:
- Amphetamine-type stimulants, which includes crystal methamphetamine (or “ice”) drug arrests were up 18 per cent and seizures of the drug up 27 per cent. This number has doubled in the past five years.
- There were over 112,000 illicit drugs arrests in the reporting period, the highest on record.
- Over 27 tonnes of illicit drugs were seized nationally, also the highest on record.
- The purity of ice in Victoria was the highest ever recorded in Australia and the price has dropped by as much as $100,000 a kilogram.
The report provides a grim warning that we will not be able to arrest our way to improving figures on illicit drug usage.
The growing number of arrests and seizures is not resulting in fewer people using illicit drugs including ice.
The Abbott Government has made bold promises about tackling the nation’s ice epidemic with the launch of a National Ice Taskforce as part of a national strategy. But so far all they have delivered is a graphic ad campaign on our TV screens.
The strongest evidence yet that this Government is not actually not serious about stemming the scourge of ice came in the federal Budget. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey ripped $500 million from Flexible Health Funds, which includes valuable funds aimed at drug rehabilitation and treatment as well as prevention strategies.
No one is certain how much will be cut from the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund and the Substance Misuse Service Delivery Grants Fund. These funds assist organisations backing the prevention of substance misuse as well as promoting and supporting treatment services across Australia.
This follows the Assistant Health Minister, Senator Fiona Nash, forcing the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia to shut its doors. Senator Nash also made controversial changes to the then Australian National Council on Drugs.
Labor calls on Tony Abbott to rule out cuts to illicit drug treatment, harm minimisation and prevention services.
Labor also raised concerns in March this year about reports which aired on Channel 10 that the Abbott Government was no longer committed to continued funding for Operation Polaris.
Operation Polaris was established in 2010 under the former Labor Government, and was commissioned to carry out waterfront-related investigations and to respond to organised crime in the maritime port areas.
The Australian Crime Commission conservatively estimates organised crime to currently cost Australia $15 billion annually.
Despite the success and seizure of more than $9 million from organised crime, the dysfunctional Abbott Government hasn’t committed to funding the taskforce in the future and has refused to brief the Opposition on its plans for the taskforce.
Given that the number of ice users is escalating we must get the right programs are in place. The answer does not lie in axing valuable substance misuse programs and support structures.
If the Abbott Government were seriously concerned about the current ice scourge and the use of illicit drugs they would continue funding to these necessary agencies and programs.