Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Jamie Briggs - The MP Who Drank the Kool Aid with Lolly Water

Jamie Briggs MP holds the federal seat of Mayo in SA and is a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committees on Health and Ageing. He is also an anti-drug warrior who recently became a contributor to the news/opinion web based forum, The Punch. His latest article at The Punch raises the issue of drug policy priorities where he criticises the Labor government for over looking illicit drugs in favour of binge drinking especially in regards to the alcopops tax. Briggs has previously voiced his concerns about the government’s focus away from illicit drugs with an article in the CourierMail. And this time, he goes even further. The problem is the further he goes, the more he delves into myths, propaganda and lies. It’s hard to tell if he is being sincere in his beliefs or whether he is just spinning a political yarn to shore up ignorant voters. If he does indeed know the facts, then he is deceitful and a liar but if he actually believes his own bullshit, then he is thick as a brick. Either way, it is a worry that an adult, in a position of trust can write such silly articles. Not surprisingly, his article was ridiculed by readers who pointed out the many holes in his argument. The use of urban myths and the usual anti-drug rhetoric made for some dull reading and was not worthy of any serious consideration. The logic was flawed and the assumptions were farcical. He even highlighted the failings of his own solution without knowing it, citing the side effects of prohibition as a factor that needed ... more prohibition. This is standard stuff for anti-drug warriors who fill articles with sound-bite like statements, fear mongering and visions of approaching doom. Since most evidence and research slices their views at the knees they are forced to use emotional hooks, play on the ignorance of the audience and use cherry picked data. The Libs know very well that appearing “tough on drugs” is a vote winner. Being tough on alcohol is not. The Rudd government deserves some praise for focusing on the most serious drug problem we have (alcohol) and wanting a long term strategy. The aim of changing our drinking culture is a brave move considering Australia’s love affair with alcohol and whether it’s working or not is debatable. It might just be too early to tell and will need many more years of smart but controversial policies and a changing attitude from the public. The alcopops strategy is only one small part of an overall plan to implement real and lasting change. It’s also fully endorsed by the leading experts on alcohol and drug abuse and not surprisingly abhorred by The Australian Hotels Association. Most importantly, it’s targeting one of the most dangerous and socially damaging drugs in the world. No amount of hollow rhetoric from the Libs can ever change this fact and to claim that illicit drugs cause more problems is simply disingenuous. I love exposing those like Briggs who go to so much trouble to deceive us. They really deserve it. It’s not just the embarrassment of them looking foolish that drives me, it’s the massive carnage they cause in real life. The insatiable quest of prohibitionist and zealots to push Zero Tolerance laws on the world has cost millions of lives and untold suffering. There are so many families that have been devastated because of a loved one who died from unregulated street drugs or was jailed trying to finance their addiction. There are also the addicts who don’t respond to the available treatments and end up being patients of the prison system. The innocent bystanders of street violence between drug gangs and those affected by corrupt police, lured to the easy money paid by drug dealers. And the ordinary, everyday citizen who is arrested for recreational drug use and cop a conviction beside their name forever. The thousands who have HIV/AIDS or Hep C because some countries do not have needle exchanges. The countless dead from countries like Mexico or Columbia, caught up in the military efforts to stop feeding the incredible hunger of US drug consumers. Every where you turn there are casualties from the "War on Drugs". People like Briggs fuel this carnage and care little about the victims, if at all. Their selfish agenda is always under the guise of fighting the drug scourge and doing what’s best for us. But anyone with an average intelligence who felt so strongly about the issue would have to do at least some research ... and in the process discover the truth. You would think so, wouldn’t you? Now to the fun stuff. Briggs asks if binge drinking is the number one health challenge? His answer is an arrogant, “I think not”. He claims that illicit drugs is the “most significant and dangerous health issue facing young Australians”. This is simply wrong. Alcohol causes 5-10 times the problems of all illicit drugs combined including death. 
Is this an indication of what to expect from Briggs' article? Yep, but there's more ... plenty more.
Using an example of where the “tough on drugs” strategy failed as a reason to be tough on drugs is priceless. Saying, “drugs are cheaper and more accessible than at any time in our history” must surely ring a bell in Brigg’s head. After many decades of prohibition and nearly 40 years of the "War on Drugs", illicit drugs should be priced out of reach for most people and extremely difficult to get. Ironically Briggs points out this failure although the Libs drug policy, which he strongly supports is to dish out even more of the same.
In times past the cost of serious drug consumption was largely prohibitive and underground, but those days are no long gone -Jamie Briggs MP. source: his arse
So hippies in the 60s and 70s didn’t smoke pot? Clubs in the 1980s and 1990s weren’t full of people taking speed and later ecstasy? Parties from the 1970s to 2000 didn’t have the mandatory smell of ganja in the air? LSD or magic mushrooms weren’t tried by young men before now. Having a few pipes before you went out wasn’t standard fare for millions of people over the last 30 years? Where the hell did Briggs get this from? I assume he pulled it out from his arse.
The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs. Next time you see the queues forming outside nightclubs, remember that statistically more than two out of three patrons who are using ecstasy take it in nightclubs. -Jamie Briggs MP
The media is giving Jamie Briggs some valuable tips to add to his bag of political trickery. A typical News.com.au reader might breeze through this article and come out thinking that 69% of ravers and nightclubbers are under the influence of ecstasy. The sneaky use of statistics in an ambiguous, misleading statement is a classic example of the media and politics working together giving the article some shock value whilst pushing the agenda of the politician.
The availability of such dangerous substances at cheap prices not only risks the health of young Australians but causes violence, assault (in many cases sexual), increased mental illness and dangerous behaviour such as driving under the influence. -Jamie Briggs MP
You are forgiven if you thought the above comment was about alcohol. About 3,100 people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption and about 72,000 people are hospitalised. 80% of night time assaults and half of all reported domestic(including sexual) violence is because of alcohol. Every year, serious assaults resulting from alcohol contributes more than 8,600 hospital admissions and police receive another 62,500 reports of alcohol related assaults. And a third of all road deaths are due to alcohol. Just to top it off, alcohol is responsible for more deaths of young people under 35 than any illicit drug. Is Briggs really being honest by claiming alcohol abuse is less important than illicit drugs? Risky drinking increased from 8.2% in 1995 to 10.3% in 2007 but drug use has actually declined over the last few years.
Alcohol misuse is a significant problem, both socially and economically, to the Australian community. The community generally perceives illicit drugs to be a greater problem because there is always more media attention on drug use, especially heroin, cannabis and ecstasy. In reality, alcohol is ranked second to tobacco as the most preventable cause of health-related harms and death. -Victorian Government Website
You’re getting the picture here. Almost everything Briggs says is exaggerated, a myth or simply wrong. The rhetoric is thick and the standard predictions of doom are everywhere.
Long term abuse of these drugs has significant mental health impacts creating a potential ‘lost generation’ of young Australians due to drug use -Jamie Briggs MP
Every future generation is going to be the “lost generation” according to anti-drug warriors. Funny enough, my generation was doomed once and so was the generation before mine ... and after mine. Of course, there is no actual evidence to prove this except the fear generated by people like Briggs. And there lies the problem ... evidence versus fear mongering. Spreading fear and lies requires no proof and emotional clich├ęs need no explanation.
Talk to any cop on the beat that has to deal with the outcomes of illicit drug use and they will tell you straight just how much trouble this scourge is causing. -Jamie Briggs MP
I bet many cops would say alcohol is the scourge more so than drugs.
We're at the point where we're saying thank God 80 per cent of them are using an illegal drug rather than alcohol, even though in 10 years they'll be suffering manic depressive disorders [...] But we just couldn't deal with that many people affected by alcohol -Queensland Police Officer. News.com.au - Ecstasy helps us deal with drunks, say cops
The police are qualified to give their opinion on the effects of alcohol versus ecstasy on the streets because that’s their job. However, they are not qualified to make medical assessments about the potential harms of MDMA without scientific data. Either is Jamie Briggs as he has obviously not researched the issue properly if at all.
The effects on the health of the consumer are substantial in the short term. While designed to give a ‘buzz’ for a number of hours what they can do to the body is horrific. An overdose can result in psychosis, vomiting, convulsions, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and in many cases death. -Jamie Briggs MP
If Briggs had done his research, he might never had made the above statement. Then again, facts have not stopped him before. Most small doses of any drug causes very little impact on the body. For example, the sinister drug, heroin is basically non toxic and apart from mild constipation and a slow down of the respiratory system, does very little or no damage to the body. Even toxic drugs like amphetamines will not usually cause major problems in small quantities. Abusing a substance is different though and long term use of any drug will normally cause medical issues. Briggs’ vision of demon like substances is simply drug hysteria and using worse case scenarios like an overdose can be applied to nearly all ingestible substances including Aspirin, paracetamol, alcohol, vitamins or coffee.
Add to that the vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use and you start to see the community wide impact of these substances. [...] This is not to underplay the dangers of binge drinking. It is a real problem for young Australians and should be addressed. But it should be addressed seriously and not under the guise of a tax grab. Binge drinking should be addressed but not at the expense of the more challenging issue of illicit drug taking by young Australians [...] It is not good enough for us to say ‘oh well young people will always experiment’. We can and should do more to crack down on this great challenge facing young Australians. A tax on lolly water doesn’t do that. -Jamie Briggs MP
And there it is ... one of the major contributions to teenage binge drinking is nothing more than “lolly water”. Again, the Libs give a free pass to alcohol while trying to drive up the public fear of illicit drugs. The drug issue is very important and needs a solid, evidence based strategy not the half-arsed, “feels good” approach of Jamie Briggs and the Libs. And definitely not by lying and deceit. Is this really acceptable from a member of parliament? But what is this article really about? As you can see, there is no scientific basis or factual foundations. It contains mostly biased opinions, personal views and thick political rhetoric at the core. And it glosses over the damage from the main culprit in substance abuse, alcohol. It feels more like political posturing over the proposed alcopops tax rather than a genuine concern about misguided drug policy. Judging from the comments when the article was first published, most readers seem to agree. Unfortunately for Jamie Briggs, his article has probably had the opposite effect to what he intended. Instead of making himself look “tough on drugs” and showing up the alcopops tax as a revenue grab, he has just shown once again, how out of touch the Liberal Party really is. The real worry for Jamie Briggs should be in 10-20 years time when he has to explain to his children and grandchildren how he got it so wrong when there was so much evidence and research contradicting his position.
Too Giggly On Alcopops To Tackle Hard Drugs by Jamie Briggs The Punch June 2009 Australia has the highest rate of ecstasy use in the world. Frightening isn’t it? So what’s being done about it? Like many other policy issues, the PM declared war on drugs but it is more a phoney war than a real one. Hey guys, wanna buy some alcopops? Since being elected the Government has failed to take any significant action on this major health and criminal problem. Instead General Rudd and his loyal lieutenants have sent the troops into the goldmine by introducing a new tax on pre-mixed lolly water rather than sending them to the front line and fighting the real war on illicit drugs. With my best Kevin Rudd impersonation, I will ask myself a question, ‘is addressing the problem of binge drinking in our young people important? Absolutely. But is it the number one health challenge? I think not’. The Rudd Government has taken its eyes of the most significant and dangerous health issue facing young Australians, illicit drugs. Instead it has taken the easy route and pursued a tax grab dressed up as a health policy. There is little doubt our young people face challenges with illicit drugs like never before. This is not only a health issue; it has devastating effects on Australians, families and communities. Drugs are cheaper and more accessible than at any time in our history. Ecstasy tablets can be bought for as little as $15, five years ago the going price was $55. This isn’t based on third-hand rumour, official government reports released last year confirm this. The Courier Mail found nightclub patrons can buy potentially lethal tablets for little more than a couple of beers. In times past the cost of serious drug consumption was largely prohibitive and underground, but those days are no long gone. Drugs are now mainstream in nightclubs and pubs, not just at rave parties and festivals. The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs. Next time you see the queues forming outside nightclubs, remember that statistically more than two out of three patrons who are using ecstasy take it in nightclubs. So not only are young people faced with peer group pressure, they are also faced with economic pressures, making the decision to dabble so much more attractive. The availability of such dangerous substances at cheap prices not only risks the health of young Australians but causes violence, assault (in many cases sexual), increased mental illness and dangerous behaviour such as driving under the influence. During the recent Easter road blitz the South Australian police found 1.49% of drivers checked, tested positive to illicit drugs. The fledgling testing system only identifies cannabis, methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth) and ecstasy. There is no safe level of taking these drugs and their effects are frightening. You do not know what is in them, nor where they are made. There is no standard for production. They are often produced in the back sheds of suburbia for criminal syndicates with little care for the outcome to the end user. There is no post sale service for this product. The effects on the health of the consumer are substantial in the short term. While designed to give a ‘buzz’ for a number of hours what they can do to the body is horrific. An overdose can result in psychosis, vomiting, convulsions, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and in many cases death. Long term abuse of these drugs has significant mental health impacts creating a potential ‘lost generation’ of young Australians due to drug use. Add to that the vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use and you start to see the community wide impact of these substances. Talk to any cop on the beat that has to deal with the outcomes of illicit drug use and they will tell you straight just how much trouble this scourge is causing. The total long term damage to Australian families is unknown and unmeasurable. This is not to underplay the dangers of binge drinking. It is a real problem for young Australians and should be addressed. But it should be addressed seriously and not under the guise of a tax grab. Binge drinking should be addressed but not at the expense of the more challenging issue of illicit drug taking by young Australians. Addressing this problem takes a serious commitment and resources with a mixture of education, law enforcement activities and health responses. We need more police on the beat to target the criminals infiltrating our bars and clubs peddling their human misery. We need an increased emphasis to find those responsible for producing and distributing these drugs onto the streets. We need programmes and interventions to help rebuild the lives of those who are caught up by addiction and finally we need better education programmes for our youngsters. It is not good enough for us to say ‘oh well young people will always experiment’. We can and should do more to crack down on this great challenge facing young Australians. A tax on lolly water doesn’t do that.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Absolute classic Terry!!
The look on their faces says it all.

The Punch won't go far with articles like that from Jamie Briggs. Who's next to write on drug policy? -- Bronwyn Bishop? Christopher Pyne? Fred Nile?

Anonymous said...

No coincidence that he holds a alcohol producing seat!

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon 1
As soon as I saw that pic I knew it needed a caption.

The Punch seem to have quite a few contributors but they could probably drop a few who write dribble like Briggs.

Howdy Anon 2
Mayo has some great wineries and any harms from alcohol is surely not happening in dem Adelaide hills. They are respectable after all.

Anonymous said...

It’s frightening as to how such simple and narrow-minded people become MP’s and most worrying what does it say about the Australian public who vote for these simpletons. If the good citizens of Mayo were better informed then perhaps Jamie Briggs would not be an MP.