Australia21 media release, 7 June 2012
In his remarkable opinion piece in the SMH today, Mr Mick Palmer, former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, said
In Australia the police are better resourced than ever, better trained than ever, more effective than ever and yet their impact on the drug trade, on any objective assessment, has been minimal.
Australia21 Chairman, Mr Paul Barratt, said 'Mr Palmer's comments should end the debate about the effectiveness of punitive approaches to illicit drugs in Australia - clearly they are not effective enough, they are accompanied by far too many nasty side effects, and they give us very little bang for too many bucks.'
'What we now need to do' Mr Barratt said, ' is learn more from the international experience. Some countries have introduced an approach which gives greater emphasis and more funding to health and social approaches. Other countries have relied on the criminal justice system. Which approach is more effective in reducing deaths, disease, crime and corruption?'
‘We should also subject our drug enforcement programs to the normal disciplines to which all major public programs are meant to be subjected, namely periodic evaluation of their effectiveness to see whether they are producing the intended outcomes and whether taxpayers are getting value for money’, Mr Barratt said. ‘An economic and social evaluation of current policy settings by the Productivity Commission would be an appropriate test of existing policy and provide valuable information for the development of future policy’.
Former Australia21 Chairman and public health expert Professor Bob Douglas said 'In recent decades governments formed from all the major political parties across Australia have used harsh language to refer to drugs and people who use them. Most of government expenditure in response to drugs has gone to the criminal justice system - with limited funding for health and social interventions. Mick Palmer should know whether or not this worked - after all he was the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police during the 'Tough on Drugs' period starting in the late 1990s'.
'This is not an easy issue for politicians or the community' said Professor Douglas, “Whatever approach Australia follows, we should be cautious and carefully evaluate any reforms. Based on Mr Palmer's comments, the one thing we should not do is stop considering this issue'.
SMH Opinion Piece http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/after-33-years-i-can-no-longer-ignore-the-evidence-on-drugs-20120606-1zwpr.html
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