Waleed Aly on why the government’s tough stance on ice was never going to work.

“Is the government’s tough stance on ice just to make us feel good?”

In April, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a national task force to tackle the growing “ice scourge”.

Australians use more ice and methamphetamine per capita than any other country — as many as 265,000 Australians using some form within the past 12 months. asks the important question about our handling of the “ice scourge”.

In Western Australia the percentage of users is almost three times than other states and territories, making it one of the key political issues in the recent Canning bi-election.

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Tony Abbott announcing the National Ice Taskforce. Image via The Project.

Clearly urgent action is required, but is the government’s zero tolerance approach to drug use really going to help?

Last night on The Project, host Waleed Aly asked just that:

“If you had to explain why taking drugs is a really bad idea in one oversimplified sentence, it would go something like this: ‘Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it is good.’

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“What if drug users aren’t the only people making that mistake, what if we all are? And what if that is exactly the mistake we’re facing when we try to fight the ice crisis? Because there is a good argument that that is precisely what is happening.”

As Aly points out the number of people killed by ice has doubled in the past five years.

“More drug users are taking it, they’re taking it more often, it’s getting purer and it’s becoming more addictive and so not surprisingly our addicts are willing to pay more than anywhere else in the world to get it,” he says.

“Why? Because by all accounts taking ice feels really good. Right up to the point where it kills you.”

Watch the full segment here (post continues after video):

Video via Channel 10

Which is why, he says, the Coalition’s tough stance was welcomed by many.

“Law enforcement cracking down hard on drug users, more police resources, tougher criminal penalties. Feels good doesn’t it?

“It made Tony Abbott look like a good leader, it gave him some great slogans but there was one little catch. It was never going to work.”

According to Aly, even head of Abbott’s taskforce, Ken Lay, fundamentally disagreed that we can “arrest our way out of the problem”.

And he was right.

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We need more hospital beds not more arrests. Image via the Project.

In spite of arresting more offenders and seizing more proceeds of crime, the price of ice has remained stable and use of the drug continues to grow.

“The evidence says law enforcement on it’s own won’t work. It will only work when combined with harm minimisation and crucially access to rehab as soon as it’s needed,” Aly says.

“So why do governments so often ignore that evidence, well because putting users in hospital beds just doesn’t give you he same buzz as chucking them in the slammer. No one gets elected being nice to drug users.”

“These crackdowns aren’t aimed at drug user, they’re aimed at voters.”

 

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