Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

committed to preventing tragedy that arises from illicit drug use

Call for Judicial Inquiry into Causes of Heroin Drought and Methamphetamine Flood

News Conference 11am, 4 Feb, Parliament House Press Boxes

A careful study of the public statements of the Australian Federal Police and other law enforcement agencies throws doubt on the Howard Government’s claim that the law enforcement effort funded by the Tough on Drugs Strategy caused the heroin drought.

"The evidence is strong," said Brian McConnell, President of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform; "that the principal cause of the drought has been a commercial decision by crime syndicates to promote amphetamine-like drugs rather than heroin."

"Prime Minister Howard and his ministers have claimed that law enforcement was responsible but it probably had only a subsidiary role. Based on what law enforcement agencies have revealed there would have been no heroin drought without other factors such as the commercial decision and a series of poor opium harvests in Burma."

The report identifies that police have revealed organised crime, based on market research, made a marketing decision that there was a brighter commercial future in the marketing of methamphetamines in Australia - drugs targeted at a younger and wider market. The limited supply of heroin has been shipped to meet increasing market demands elsewhere in the world.

"The reduced availability of heroin has had some welcome benefits, not the least being the drop in overdose deaths," Mr McConnell said. "But, we are faced with the extraordinary situation of a government claiming the credit for what is essentially a decision by crime entrepreneurs. This has implications for our nations security"

The National Crime Authority has issued such a warning saying: "...the scale of the illicit drug problem and its onward progression is such as to demand the highest attention of government and the community..." The Government seems to have ignored that warning and has instead announced its intention to restructure or do away with the NCA.

"Without a thorough analysis of what has happened to cause this significant and unique event our drug policies and national security will be at the mercy of commercial decisions by criminals when what we want is a government to act for community benefit on the basis of evidence."

"We therefore call on the government to urgently convene an independent inquiry into the causes of the heroin drought and flood of other drugs with a mandate to consider the implications of these developments for drug policy," said Brian McConnell.

The full texts of the studies by Bill Bush are available at the web site www.ffdlr.org.au. Contact for Bill Bush 02 6257 1786

For more information: Contact Brian McConnell (02) 6254 2961.
If unanswered, mobile 04 0907 4033


The Australian heroin drought:
The case for an inquiry into its causes and the flood of methamphetamines
W.M. Bush


The article disputes the claim by the Federal Government that Australian law enforcement financed by its Tough on Drugs Strategy was primarily responsible for the heroin drought and resulting fall in overdose deaths. Law enforcement agencies – notably the Australian Federal Police through its Commissioner – have revealed intelligence to the effect that Asian crime syndicates have assessed that there is a large and very profitable market in Australia for amphetamine-like drugs and that they have made a marketing decision to promote them rather than heroin.

The paper analyses carefully these and other contributing factors of the drought, including law enforcement, put forward by the Australian Federal Police. The evidence made available by enforcement agencies suggests strongly that the prime causes of the drought were a series of poor opium harvests in Burma and the marketing decision of crime syndicates. No other explanation fits the known facts including:

• the drought being confined to Australia;

• a big rise in availability of amphetamine-like drugs imported through the same channels as heroin;

• the known large rise in recent years in production in South East Asia of these artificial drugs;

• the greater profit derivable from them than from heroin; and

• their lower vulnerability to law enforcement interdiction.

If Australian law enforcement had an effect it was probably only a subsidiary factor. The evidence is strong that there would have been no drought in the absence of the other factors. In that case the Government is taking credit for a decision of criminals.