Friday, 14 November 2008

Even The Feds Want Drug Policy Changes

When the head of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) criticises our drug policies, you know there’s a problem. AFP Commissioner, Mick Keelty recently made his views public about the unsuccessful strategies that have been pushed on us by ignorant and self serving governments. For the first time, the AFP have denounced the route we have taken for tackling the drug problem and talked up our official policy of Harm Minimisation.
This is a real complex problem; it's not about law enforcement, it's not only about supply reduction. about how we manage harm reduction and demand reduction. -Mick Keelty. Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP)
Keelty’s comments came as a huge shock to many as the AFP has always been closely linked to government spin on drug strategies. John Howard used the AFP to falsely claim that his “Tough on Drugs” policy had broken the heroin trade into Australia and was responsible for the decline in drug use. For Keelty to do the unthinkable by denouncing the current system is a sign of the times as the world approaches a more pragmatic period regarding drug use. Why did Keelty say what he did? And why now? Paul Dillon (Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia) says Mick Keelty would have never had said publicly what he did under the Howard government.
I think it's really quite amazing that Mr Keelty has come out with these comments [...] Every single time they said they were doing anything about drugs, out would come a new police helicopter, or out would come a new customs machine. That's very easy to parade to the media and say, 'Look, we're doing something about drugs’ -Paul Dillon. Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia
Mick Keelty voiced his views at a recent discussion titled Justice Issues for Drug Use held by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD). The criticism of his own department gave his views even more credence than usual and should not be understated. Declaring that authorities like the AFP should ‘stop quoting statistics and feeling good about themselves that they’re doing a good job’ was a brave move by Keelty. Putting the emphasis on Harm Reduction and Demand Reduction was his call without loosing sight of law & order in the process. This is Harm Minimisation in it’s purest form with the 3 prong attack being fully covered.
It can't be just as simple as saying no to drugs. It has to be more important work in drug education to ensure that future generations are not creating the sort of demand that we have in our country at the moment. -Mick Keelty. Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP)
Mick Keelty pointed out the volumes of seized drugs as an indicator of how ineffective current strategies really are.
We've seized 195 kilograms of cocaine, which equates to 195,000 street hits; 4.4 tonnes or 15 million doses of ecstasy; 27 kilograms or 270,000 hits of crystal methamphetamine, or ice; and 1.7 tonnes of precursor chemical pseudoephedrine They're enormous seizures. I remember years ago being excited about a multi-kilo seizure. But these seizures are beyond belief. -Mick Keelty. Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP)
He went on and called for a change of direction and said 'now is the time to break the pattern'. Although law enforcement wasn’t put aside, the call for change included both Harm Reduction and Demand Reduction. Probably the most important statement was that the issue at hand was complex and there were no simple answers. Accepting that a range of strategies were needed was a welcoming break from the simplistic approach that has been the basis of the Zero Tolerance agenda which coincidentally has had no success so far. I can see the likes of Drug Free Australia (DFA), Bronwyn Bishop or Piers Akerman frothing at the mouth as one of their own utters those filthy words; Harm Minimisation or Harm Reduction without publicly condemning it. Are Brian Watters, Bill Muehlenberg, Craig Thompson, Jo Baxter, Miranda Devine etc. going to change their views on Harm Minimisation now that Australia’s top cop has endorsed it? Somehow I doubt it since they don’t really understand the issue in the first place.
The question is, how many more people have to die before we reject the foolishness of these harm minimisation advocates, and their mistaken belief that illicit drug use is just a health issue, and not also a criminal justice issue? Instead of seeking harm prevention - the only proven drug policy - and a zero tolerance approach to drug use, they recklessly continue pushing the line that people will always take drugs, so we must try to make it “safer” when they do. This is not only a counsel of surrender, but it is costing people their lives. It is time the dangerous and failed ideology of the harm minimisation crowd is replaced with some realism which is genuinely compassionate and responsible. -Bill Muehlenberg. Culture Watch
The anti-Harm Minimisation crowd in Australia is becoming more and more of a fringe movement involving radicals like the religious right, evangelists and die-hard conservatives. It must be a relief for the many politicians who had to tow the party line for John Howard and found it hard to ignore science, medicine and the growing death toll. The truth always wins out in the end and Keelty was just one of the many who found it increasingly hard to maintain a vigilant agenda to a policy based on fear and rhetoric without facts or evidence. It might have taken a while but at least he had the guts to admit it.
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