Julie Bishop: 'Why it’s important to talk about Australia’s growing ice problem.’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop writes a fortnightly column for Mamamia.

Ice is an illegal and powerful stimulant which causes disproportionate harm in the community. It can trigger psychosis and long term psychological issues and is linked to violent attacks, assaults, road accidents and burglaries.

Ice literally breaks down pathways between neurons in the brain and ice users feel no compulsion to eat or sleep and often arrive at emergency departments having gone days without food or rest.

Research shows that Australians use more ice and methamphetamine per capita than any other country – up to 200,000 in the past year alone.

The Government established a National Task Force to tackle ice earlier this year.

The Coalition Government is working to tackle the ice problem. In April we announced a National Ice Taskforce, headed by former Victorian police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, which will develop recommendations for a coordinated national strategy. The Taskforce’s interim report was taken to COAG, where state and territory leaders agreed to focus on six areas: law enforcement; targeting primary prevention; improving access to early intervention, treatment and support services; supporting local communities to respond; improving support for frontline workers; and consolidating data and research.

Taskforce research reveals almost 265,000 Australians reported using some form of ice/methamphetamines in the past 12 months. In Western Australia, the percentage is almost three times higher than other states and territories.

Read more about this: Is “ice” more dangerous than any other illegal drug?

Over the last couple of weeks I have spent time in my home state campaigning in the seat of Canning for the by-election with Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie. Doorknocking last week, we met with an off-duty police officer who raised ice-fuelled violence as one of the biggest law and order issues in the area.

Julie Bishop with Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie in Canning.

National leadership is absolutely critical if we are to effectively tackle the ice scourge.

The Government has provided $18 million to the Australian Crime Commission to help target transnational criminal syndicates that are importing ice. We have announced $1 million boost to the Crime Stoppers Hotline to identify people dealing illegal drugs.

We have launched an advertising campaign, featuring confronting images that show the realities of using ice. Independent evaluation reveals it has been extremely effective: of the over 3,800 people surveyed, 94 per cent of young people who saw the ads said they had taken some ‘action’ as a result – either by talking to peers or their parents, or by changing their thinking about ice, and 51 per cent of at-risk young people who had seen the ads said they would now avoid using ice. The research found the ads also resulted in more parents talking to their children and that 61 per cent of young people consider conversations with their parents a “big influence” on their thinking about drugs.

Watch one of the confronting commercials here (post continues after video):

While advertising alone will not fix the ice issue, it’s an important plank in the government’s overall platform.

Ice use reaches deep into society and we need the community to help fight it from grass roots level. It is important to talk about the destructive power of ice with friends, workmates, and family. When it comes to preventing the harm caused by ice, we are all in this together.

Read Julie Bishop’s last column here.