Submission of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform to the Inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission into Amphetamines and other Synthetic Drugs
The flood of potent methamphetamines onto the Australian drug scene over the past seven years is a case study of the power of criminals to inflict huge harm on the Australian community and the incapacity of law enforcement to prevent this.
2. The background of the advent of these drugs into Australia and their impact is well documented. In this submission Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform summarises the information available from public sources.
3. Of the drugs that fall within the committee’s terms of reference, the submission limits itself to methamphetamines. Ecstasy is also discussed but only because methamphetamine is commonly passed off in the form of ecstasy tablets.
4. The failure of Australian border control to block in any meaningful way the importation of the potent methamphetamines is shown by:
- the apparent full implementation of a business plan developed by South East Asian crime syndicates to promote these drugs; and
- the flexibility of the crime syndicates in swapping these drugs for their previous mainstay, heroin.
5. The failure of domestic law enforcement is shown by:
- the rapidity with which the potent methamphetamines became available on the Australian market;
- the speed and extent to which they were taken up in the dance party scene; and
- the rapidity with which and extent that criminals have developed a domestic manufacturing base for more potent methamphetamine and false ecstasy.
The more potent drugs flooded the Australian market in about 2000. After describing this occurrence, the submission looks at the current situation and describes how the market has consolidated and expanded.
6. The means are already at hand to apply drug market indicators like price, purity and surveys of availability to assess the effectiveness of law enforcement. The application of these indicators confirms that law enforcement is not applying an effective break to the illicit drug market. The application of the performance measures devised by the Australian Federal Police – benchmarking and its drug harm index – is demonstrably flawed and misleading. Based as these measures are on seizures, they can claim success as the drug situation deteriorates.
7. The submission then turns to the serious harm that these drugs are causing. This is shown by the following:
- The distress of families who often have to cope with stressful behaviour induced by these stimulants. Violent and psychotic behaviour is frequent. This is in contrast to the pharmacological effects of a depressant like heroin.
- The pressure on drug treatment services because there are few and relatively ineffective treatment options for these stimulants compared to those available for heroin.
- The insupportable burden in treating people with psychotic behaviour placed on a mental health system that is already in crisis.
8. Finally, the submission suggests some ways forward including:
- The paramount importance of integrating law enforcement in a co-ordinated approach which engages all of government and community resources and in which law enforcement plays a supporting role rather than the dominant one it presently does; and
- The need to recognise that some drugs are indeed much more dangerous than others and that, within an overall policy that discourages drug use, action can be taken to make it more likely that those who do use drugs have recourse to the less dangerous ones.