A new report into drug-related deaths has proposed the decriminalisation of drug use in Australia.
The Australia21 report has the backing of former police commissioners and assistant commissioners, two former heads of Corrective Services, a former Supreme Court Judge and a former Director of Public Prosecutions.
It is the group’s third report in five years on the issue.
The report says despite more than 80,000 arrests in Australia each year, there has been a continued rise in diseases, injuries, crimes and social costs.
The report’s recommendations include:
- Decriminalising drug use and consideration of eliminating all penalties
- More “Drug consumptions rooms” — Australia has only one medically supervised centre in Kings Cross
- Consideration of a regulated “white market” for drugs in a bid to counter “the black market”
- Improving health and social services to drug users, particularly in rural areas
- More funding for harm minimisation strategies
Former federal police commissioner Mick Palmer told ABC News Breakfast his attitude had changed a lot since he was a young policeman in the 1960s.
“I didn’t have time for people who used drugs. I realised the futility of the practice,” he said.
“Since I retired, I have devoted a fair bit of time to work more closely with the drug user coalface and it has become obvious we can’t arrest our way out of it.
“Law enforcement can’t solve what is a serious issue and we need a more multi-faceted approach to deal with the problem.
“What we now have is badly broken, ineffective and even counterproductive to the harm minimisation aims of Australia’s national illicit drugs policy.
Problem ‘getting worse’
The report, entitled “Can Australia Respond to Drugs More Effectively and Safely?” was launched this morning by former Victorian and NSW premiers Jeff Kennett and Bob Carr.
Mr Kennett said the report had “shone a light on a problem we all know exists and has existed for a long period of time and anecdotally, it seems to be getting worse”.
“Yet where are the legislators today with the courage to try something different that might, in some way, bring about a change of direction in this particular area of pursuit?” he said.
“I’ve got to say to you I can’t see them anywhere at the moment. While I accept there is no magic wand, this is an issue that requires the most creative advocacy of all, because for so many who have no issue and no relationship with those who might be victims of the class that we are talking about, they will always probably accept the practices of the past; what they’ve grown up with.
“But those practices are not relevant today in dealing with the scourge that is increasingly not only affecting society, it is affecting our first responders and it is affecting a whole group of the community.”
Mr Carr said everyone was entitled to have a say on the issue, especially the families affected and the organisations that saved lives.
“Let’s not be dogmatic, let’s be open minded,” he said.
“Let’s respect everyone’s view, even the more conservative ones.
“Premiers’ offices should be moving with mainstream opinion and saying, ‘Yes, a medically supervised injecting room should be given a broader mandate and there should be consultation with parents about the prospect of testing pills at music events’.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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