Labor welcomes the Abbott Government’s announcement of a National Ice Action Strategy to tackle the growing problem of crystal methamphetamine (ice), including the establishment of a National Ice Taskforce.
The scourge of ice on families and our community cannot be underestimated.
Ice is taking a terrible toll on many people and communities, and can only be tackled through a strong national approach.
As Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said this morning, Labor will work with the Government to help tackle the menace of ice.
The threat of ice requires a coordinated policy response in order to effectively tackle the problem, with a health-based approach needed to complement law enforcement efforts.
The Abbott Government’s last budget cut $197 million out of the Department of Health’s Flexible Funds, which funds programs of national importance, including programs to combat drug and alcohol abuse.
Health Minister Sussan Ley has refused to confirm funding for any of these programs, only committing to a 12 month extension, and leaving many of them uncertain about their future.
With the rate of ice users doubling in the last twelve months, the Abbott Government must end the chaos in health and commit to long term funding of these important programs.
We should always aim to disrupt the criminals who profit from this highly addictive and widely available drug, however, in order to comprehensively address this problem the National Ice Action Strategy must recognise that the criminal justice system and law enforcement efforts can only do so much.
The models that have worked most successfully overseas involve a close integration of justice and public health systems.
This drug is having a particularly severe impact in remote, rural and regional areas. The poorer the community, the greater the problem becomes – ice use is twice as prevalent in rural and regional communities as in metropolitan areas.
Our police and courts can aim to throw more people behind bars but experts across the globe agree that this won’t make the problem go away.
We need to examine the circumstances that drive people to addiction and steer policy towards identifying and addressing the problems affecting vulnerable segments of the community.
Only then will the national plan to combat ice have any hope of properly confronting this epidemic that is crippling communities across Australia.