President’s Annual Report 2002

The year for FFDLR started after the federal elections which saw the return of the Howard Government. We still had to battle against a government that opposes the life saving treatment of heroin prescription trials and supervised injecting places. The meagre trickle of funds to treatment compared to the gush of funds to law enforcement was set to be repeated.
The same government proceeded during the year to dismantle the National Crime Authority, which among other things had dared to say, to any who would listen, that the war against organised crime, which was fuelled largely by the drug trade, was being lost and perhaps the government should make heroin available on prescription. A less independent organisation that can be controlled by law enforcement and governments is being established.
However on the world stage positive changes were occurring – for example reductions in criminality of laws in respect of cannabis in Great Britain and Canada. In Great Britain reports of trials in certain areas whereby police did not apprehend cannabis users indicated reductions in other crimes. Possibly because police were investigating serious crimes instead.
Germany reported during the year significant savings in lives as a result of their introduction of supervised injecting rooms. And the Dutch concluded their heroin prescription trials and declared it a great success on many fronts, but mainly demonstrating that it could improve treatment by up to 25% over their methadone maintenance program. Its success was little reported in Australia and no comment was made about it by the federal government.
There were many progress reports on the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Room and all reports demonstrated very good outcomes. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) demanded that Australia close the injecting room but few took any notice of their demands.
Much was made in the election campaign about the heroin drought – the government wrongly claimed that its ‘Tough on Drugs Strategy’ was responsible for it. However an examination of the public record revealed that the heroin drought was mostly the result of increased demand for heroin elsewhere and shortages of supply. It also revealed that Asian crime gangs manufactured amphetamines and promoted their use in Australia because it was more profitable. Much of this was on the public record and predicted months before the heroin drought struck Australia.
An outcome was a high usage of amphetamines but because treatment services were unaware that the drug was on its way treatment services were unprepared.
However with the Taliban removed from Afghanistan and improved weather conditions in South East Asia heroin production started to rise. It was predicted that Afghanistan would have a bumper spring crop – the heroin from it would be reaching markets about now. In Australia heroin is returning to the streets.
The ACT government continued to reiterate during the year its support for a heroin trial and for a supervised injecting room trial. The SIP taskforce was re-established and is continuing its work but the final outcome of the Kings Cross injecting room trial is being awaited before the next step is taken. A joint community and government drugs taskforce has been established and the doctors Division of General Practice has established the Opiate Program, a program to assist GPs with treatment of opiate addiction.
However the debate on drug law reform has take second place to terrorism issues.

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