Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

committed to preventing tragedy that arises from illicit drug use

Reality Check Needed on Latest Drug Bust

The reports of the dramatic capture of the "Mother Ship" which allegedly delivered 50 kilos of heroin to Victoria gives no indication of effectiveness of drug supply control.

"The bust and the high seas drama that accompanied it is more about propaganda and theatre than effectiveness of drug policy," said Brian McConnell, President of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform. "Again the authorities fail to be transparent and put this in context of the quantity of heroin and other drugs that reach Australian streets. While supply control is a necessary part of drug control policy its success must be put into perspective. This bust probably represents a small fraction of one percent of all available street drugs."

"Furthermore the then AFP Commissioner Mick Palmer stated that Australia’s largest seizure of 390kg of heroin seized off Port Macquarie in October 1998 had no effect on the price, purity or availability of heroin. This smaller seizure, one eighth of that seized off Port Macquarie is also unlikely to have any effect."

The only respite from the growth in black market heroin supply since it was created by prohibition laws in 1954 has been the heroin drought of 2000/2001. A phenomena that the Howard Government initially claimed was almost exclusively due to Australian law enforcement destroying a major drug cartel. However the drought was later attributed by senior AFP officers to many factors including:

"The claim that the cartel supplying heroin into Australia was destroyed and that a strong message had been sent to deter future cartels is now shown to be false. We welcomed the respite from overdose deaths that the shortage of heroin brought, no matter what the cause might have been," said Brian McConnell. "However the return of heroin with consequential overdose deaths together with the amphetamines that remain after flooding in during the drought and the limited effect of supply control should send a clear and strong message to Prime Minister Howard that his Government must adopt practices that are transparent and which properly report the effectiveness of its policies to the public."

23 April 2003

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