Rhonda Parker

Rhonda Parker


    ALP drug policy lacks any originality or substance

    18/12/1999 4:30 PM

    The Minister responsible for WA Drug Abuse Strategy Rhonda Parker has dismissed WA Labor’s drug policy released today as lacking any originality or substance.

    “The Labor Party has lost all credibility when it comes to drug policy and their proposal for a drug summit is five years late,” Mrs Parker said.

    “Because of internal divisions in the Labor caucus, they have backed away from all their controversial policy proposals until after the next election and refuse to tell the people of Western Australia what exactly a Labor State Government would do.

    “Their proposal to hold a drug summit is a smoke-screen to hide the fact that they were not able to agree internally on a clear and consistent strategy against drug abuse.

    “While the Coalition Government has a clear long-term strategic vision for WA’s response to the drug problem, the WA Labor party is inconsistent and cannot be trusted with the development of a reliable and effective strategy against drug abuse.

    “Only last month the Government released its second Together Against Drugs strategy with a $91 million commitment to address the drug problem in WA.

    “The unprecedented levels of funding, combined with our efforts to tackle drug abuse through action at every level in government and in the community, demonstrates our strong commitment to addressing the problem of drug abuse as a high priority.

    “While the Opposition has attacked the Government all year over our refusal to introduce heroin on prescription or heroin injecting rooms, it now appears that the Labor caucus itself did not back Alan Carpenter’s radical policy proposals.

    “The Coalition Government has always made its position very clear: we consider that to provide heroin on prescription or to establish heroin injecting rooms in Perth would not solve, but worsen the drug problem in WA.”

    Mrs Parker said the only firm commitment in Labor’s drug policy released today was to have a drug summit, supposedly to bring together stakeholders to come up with better informed policy makers and ‘to separate fact from fiction in the WA drug debate’.

    “That commitment doesn’t represent much in the context of the most comprehensive strategy against drug abuse in the
    State’s history, which has been developed by the Coalition Government on the basis of the most comprehensive consultation on the issue ever in the State,” she said.

    “The Labor Party’s pledge to a drug summit comes after the Coalition Government facilitated unprecedented consultation on the drug issue right across the State and with both stakeholders and the community.”

    The Minister said that consultation and the very thorough efforts to separate fact from fiction in the WA drug debate have included:
    • the Premier’s Taskforce on Drug Abuse, which reported in September 1995: that report followed 16 public forums attended by 617 people, 163 written submissions received from 93 non-Government and community organisations and 59 public sector agencies, over 200 meetings with some 150 relevant organisations in Perth and regional centres, including all specialist alcohol and drug service providers in the State as well as general health, justice and welfare services, including youth services;
    • the Interim Report of the Select Committee into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, Taking the Profit Out of Drug Trafficking, which heard evidence from stakeholders, conducted investigative visits and deliberative meetings over 109 hours. It was released in November 1997 and the Labor Party was represented on the committee;
    • the Final Report of the Select Committee into the Misuse of Drugs Act released in August 1998 followed a further 160 hours of evidence hearings, investigative visits and deliberative meetings;
    • public forums in more than 60 localities around the State, resulting in the establishment of over 60 local drug action groups, aimed at developing local solutions to local problems;
    • three Local Drug Action Group Annual Conferences in Perth since 1997, bringing together all local drug action groups from around the State to consult and discuss responses to the drug problem;
    • four Community Drug Service Team Conferences, bringing together all alcohol and drug treatment services and WANADA (WA Network for Alcohol and Drug Agencies), to consult and discuss responses to the drug problem; and -
    • a wide range of other forums and conferences.

    “As part of our 1999-2001 Together Against Drugs strategy the Coalition Government has committed itself to an Annual Research, Policy and Practice Symposium to promote the translation of drug abuse related research into practise,”
    Mrs Parker said.

    “There has been an enormous amount of consultation on the issue of drug abuse and that consultation is now ongoing, with the necessary frameworks in place for that to occur.

    “Most of the other initiatives the Labor Party wants to take to a drug summit have already been implemented by the State Government or are well under way.

    “In relation to cannabis law enforcement for example, the Government only two weeks ago released the results of the pilot cannabis cautioning and mandatory education system in the Mirrabooka and Bunbury police districts.

    “The trial has proven successful, in particular the requirement to attend an education session on the harms of cannabis and the Government has decided to expand the system State-wide.

    “The Government has also a very strong and demonstrated commitment to education strategies targeted to young people, having implemented a three year $4.5 million School Drug Education Project, which is bringing effective drug education into all schools in WA.

    “That commitment has been even further expanded with the release of the 1999-2001 strategy.

    “Our commitment to naltrexone and other addiction treatments is among the strongest in the nation. We are the only State in Australia providing naltrexone free of charge to heroin addicts seeking that treatment and we do not have any waiting lists for methadone treatment, which is not something that every other State can say.

    “The Government has also made a strong commitment to improved treatment of drug related offenders while in prison.

    “In partnership with the sector and the community we have also been achieving results.

    “We are the only State in Australia that, against the trend in all other States, has been able to reduce and stabilise the rate of deaths from heroin overdose.”

    Mrs Parker said the comparative number of suspected deaths figures over the last three years had been 83 in 1997, 77 in 1998 and 77 to date in 1999.

    Against the background of increasing world production in heroin and other illicit drugs and therefore against the background of increased availability of heroin, this was an encouraging trend.

    “The death rate remains unacceptably high and the Government will continue to pursue its comprehensive strategies to address the issue,” the Minister said.

    “The fact is that the Labor Party has an instinct to go soft on drugs, but they don’t have the courage to take such a policy to the next election.

    “The Government makes no apologies for our primary focus on demand and supply reduction with a secondary focus on harm reduction and we consider it to be our responsibility to take the necessary care that such harm reduction measures don’t encourage or normalise drug abuse in the community.

    “The problem of drug abuse Australia-wide has skyrocketed all throughout the eighties and early nineties in the context of unqualified support for harm minimisation as a first principle guiding all activity.

    “We need to be more careful with the type of strategies we implement, because some of them will actually have secondary consequences that would worsen the drug problem in WA.

    Media contact: Owen Cole 9481 7810