Labor welcomes the Australian Crime Commission’s (ACC) first report into the methylamphetamine market, The Australian Methylamphetamine Market – The National Picture, outlining the threat posed by “ice” to Australia.
The ACC report confirms that the drug possesses the greatest threat to the Australian public of all illicit drug types.
Although it was once largely considered an urban problem, the spread of this drug is having a particularly severe impact on regional and rural areas where the social and economic circumstances that drive drug abuse are more acute. Disadvantaged communities in the bush featuring high levels of youth unemployment make easy targets for ice traffickers.
The prevalence of ice in remote areas can also be attributed to the ease of manufacturing and distributing the drug, where it can go easily unnoticed.
It is outside of our metropolitan areas where the provision of health, community and criminal justice services are struggling or non-existent. There is a troubling lack of drug rehabilitation facilities limiting treatment options as well as insufficient numbers of community workers.
Our emergency service workers, drug and alcohol counsellors and public health specialists are struggling to contain the epidemic with the resources at their disposal.
The report comprehensively outlines the role of organised crime in supplying and distributing ice. We should always aim to disrupt the organised criminal elements, including outlaw motorcycle gangs, who profit from trafficking. But on its own this is not enough; we can’t just shift the burden to the criminal justice system.
The threat of ice requires strong national policy in order to effectively tackle this illicit drug epidemic, with a health-based approach to compliment law enforcement efforts.
We need to examine the circumstances that drive people to addiction and steer policy towards identifying and addressing the problems affecting vulnerable segments of the community.
Australia’s National Drug Strategy, approved in February 2011, was an important step forward in preventing and treating illicit drug use. However, it is due to expire in 2015, giving the Abbott Government the perfect opportunity to draw on the recommendations made in this report.
Labor welcomes the report, and urges the Abbott Government to do more to tackle the escalating crystal methylamphetamine epidemic plaguing our cities and have a profound impact on rural and regional Australia.