Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

committed to preventing tragedy that arises from illicit drug use

Inquiry a Litany of Lost Opportunities

The Parliamentary Enquiry into Drug Abuse in Australia has missed opportunities to improve the drug problem. In fact it attempts to turn the clock back 25 years.

"Despite the overwhelming evidence presented to the enquiry, and the irrefutable evidence from Europe," said Brian McConnell, President of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform, "the Committee has refused to recommend life saving measures such as prescription heroin and supervised injecting rooms."

"The Committee is relying on prevention as its magic bullet solution. Prohibition was supposed to be that magic bullet solution. That has not worked. It has only contributed to thousands dying, like my son who died 11 years ago today, and has made the Mr Bigs rich. This report guarantees that situation will continue."

The report pushes a drug free, zero tolerance Australia and proposes that the National Drug Strategy adopt that approach. That flies in the face of the evidence – the Committee has disregarded any evidence contrary to its preconceived opinions.

This is an attempt to gut existing harm minimisation measures contained in the National Drug Strategy that has kept deaths and diseases much lower in Australia than in countries that have had zero tolerance policies.

We challenge the Government to reveal the current evaluation of the National Drug Strategy which is being conducted in secret.

The Committee calls for "prevention" – read, basically, intensified law enforcement - to cut off supply. There’s more than half a century’s experience that demonstrates this does not work.

In 1953 – 50 years ago this year – Australia, under US and UN pressure, prohibited heroin. At that time Australia used 5.25 kg per million of population, mostly for pain relief and in cough mixtures. According to National Crime Authority figures (and with that drug prohibited) Australia in 1998/99 used 350 kg per million. A 67 fold increase in drug use, which has been accompanied by an increase in drug related crime.

"The report is worse than doing more of the same. It is a call to return to a mythical drug free past. It will do nothing to make real improvements to drug problems in Australia. It will increase crime, social dislocation and misery.

8 September 2003

For more information: Contact Brian McConnell (02) 6254 2961/04 0907 4033