2UE Lunchtime Lowdown

09 September 2015






SUBJECT: Ice; Budget cuts.

CLINTON MAYNARD:We've heard so much in the last few weeks about the federal Government's efforts to tackle ice and we do have a serious problem across the nation with ice, particularly in some regional areas. Stephen Jones, who is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, is concerned that whilst the Abbott Government is making a big deal they are actually in some ways contradicting what the state Government is doing about the problem.


MAYNARD: The Abbott Government is making lots of noise about what they are trying to do, the Prime Minister made announcements on Sunday in regards to the anti-ice strategy. Has he taken the right approach?

JONES: Look, you don't want to be cynical about this because it is an important public health issue. People's lives are at stake, it is ruining families; we know that. But we know that we have to do three things at once - we have to do something about the supply, we have to do something about the demand and we have to do something about rehabilitating people and helping people who want to turn their life around to get off the drugs. Now, all the Government is doing about it at the moment is jumping up and down and saying we are going to lock people up, we are going to increase the penalties, we will "dob in a dealer" and all of that. That is all well and good, some of those strategies work and some of them don't. But the other two things they are doing nothing about, in fact they are ripping $800 million out of the federal funds which are used to allocate money to drug and alcohol education and rehabilitation services. So we say it just doesn't make sense.

MAYNARD: You make a good point about rehabilitation there. With ice addicts in your experience of looking at this issue as the Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, do most ice addicts want help? Do they realise there is a problem? Or do their families try to get them into that help?

JONES: What we know is that once somebody makes a decision that they want to turn their life around, that is the best time to intervene. Get them into detox and then get them into rehab; but they have got to take the step that they want to make a difference, that they want to stop what they are doing and turn their life around. So I'm a bit sceptical and there is no evidence that really suggests forced detox or forced rehab is the answer. Because it doesn't deal with all of the other issues that are going on in somebody's life. There is generally mental health issues, there is generally social issues and other things going on there as well. So the person themselves they have got to want to change. There is a bit of personal responsibility there, but once they have made that decision we should wrap around them and start to help them.

JO ABI: My understanding is that even within the current level of funding there is a three month wait for treatment for ice addiction. So you don't seek treatment until you reach rock bottom and then you are told - well we will call you when we've got room. Is that the case?

JONES: That is the case and that even assumes that there is a service anywhere near you -

ABI: Oh my God -

JONES: In some areas in regional Australia, where the problem is the worst, there are no services. There are parts of Tasmania where there are no services, so yes long waiting lists. That is the last thing that you want; when someone has made that psychological decision and said that my life is a mess, I'm mucking everything up here and I want to get off this rubbish they cry out for help but the answer is sorry mate you have a three month or even a six month waiting list.

MAYNARD: Stephen do you think that this is one of those issues where really we need a bipartisan approach to this issue? That we should forget about the politics of it, whether you are on the Liberal side or the Labor side, that we actually need to get together and figure it out together?

JONES: Yes we have got to be on the public's side on this and we have to be on the side of things that work. We are not the only country in the world that is facing this problem. There is a bit of evidence coming in from overseas about what works, let's use that. We don't have to reinvent the wheel and let's not try and use it for political point scoring. Let's just try and sort out what works.

MAYNARD: Thanks for your time today Stephen.

JONES: Thank you.