Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sophie Mirabella - Another “Tough on Drugs” Looney Lib

They’re at it again.
This is where Labor’s rhetoric once again diverges from reality. Despite declaring a pre-election “war on drugs” in 2007, the Rudd Government has largely abandoned the “Tough on Drugs” initiative that was so successful under the Howard Government.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

Oh dear, those silly Libs. Always harping on about someone being “Soft on Drugs” or how the Howard government was so successful at fighting the drug scourge while the Rudd government is doing nothing.
Funding has been cut for both the Tough on Drugs initiative and the Customs and border protection services that so effectively prevented tonnes of dangerous drugs from being imported and getting to our streets.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

Yes, I remember the success. Like the heroin epidemic that Howard proudly announced was beaten with help from the Australian Federal Police (AFP). At the time, heroin use did drop significantly in Australia and there was plenty of back patting and victory speeches. Amazingly, Howard’s “Tough on Drugs” policy was also working overseas and countries like Australia who were supplied heroin by Burma had a record drop in heroin use. Simply amazing! Several years later though, AFP head, Mick Kelty dropped a bombshell and explained that Burma and other S.E. Asia crime syndicates had switched to methamphetamines(ice) and ditched their heroin business. Oops. Just to rub it in, it was later revealed that the use of ice had been growing for the previous 5 years and peaked around the time the government announced that methamphetamines were starting to become a problem in Australia. By the time the media and government started screaming “Ice Epidemic”, methamphetamine use had already started to decline. The short story being that whilst the Howard government was busy taking credit for something they didn’t do, ice had slipped in unnoticed ... all on their watch.

Since the Rudd government took over, the “Tough on Drugs” campaign has taken a back seat while they focus on a much bigger problem called alcohol. This is driving the Libs crazy as they had previously defended the massive alcohol industry although it causes much more carnage on Australia than illicit drugs ever will. Sussan Ley, Jamie Briggs, Mathias Cormann, Colin Barnett, Christian Porter, Barry O'Farrell etc. have all had a go at the Rudd government for not being “Tough on Drugs”. Joining this groups of desperates is Sophie Mirabella, Liberal Party Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare, Women & Youth. Although Sophie Mirabella is already well known as a twat, she confirmed it by writing a piece for The Punch last week. In her article, she attacked Rudd and co. for being “Soft on Crime” highlighting how they have neglected to follow up the success of the Howard government and their “Tough on Drugs” policy. Well, here’s the thing Sophie ... “Tough on Drugs” doesn’t work. When you say “Soft on Drugs”, you mean being sensible, rational and following the facts. You mean reconsidering a failed policy that has cost millions of lives around the world. You mean breaking away from the US centric "War on Drugs" that has cursed that country into having the largest rate of drug users on the planet. Like I commented on the The Punch site - “But there’s the catch. If they really believe the propaganda they spin to the public then they are dumb as a hammer but if they are rational thinking adults and know it’s not true, then they are liars. Any guesses?”. My guess is that you know damn well what’s happening but you can’t get your head around addiction being a medical issue. You see drug use as immoral except for that most dangerous of drugs, alcohol. You think we are simply not tough enough on drug users and a worldwide concerted effort will produce a drug free world. Like most nutters from the far right, you accept druggies dying or being wrongly imprisoned as an unfortunate side effect of maintaining public morality. Yes, the quest for a perfect society that gave us Hitler, apartheid, jail for homosexuals, the over throwing of democratically elected governments, the loss of civil rights, a massive prison population, the stolen generation, rampant corruption and of course, the "War on Drugs". In your world Sophie, there’s no room for science or compassion if it interferes with conservative values.
At the Annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in March this year, our “tough” Government actually protested that the term “harm reduction” had been pointedly excluded from a political declaration – effectively betraying Labor’s real “soft on drugs” approach and putting us at odds with our traditional ally, the US.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

Mirabella’s latest rant in The Punch is straight from a neocon handbook. It’s probably called How To Win Friends And Influence People (Using Fear & Lies). Neocons believe it’s okay to lie to the public if it’s in the best interest of the country and Mirabella wants to determine what that is. Who cares if it ruins lives? Who cares if it doesn’t work? And why would Mirabella criticise the government for wanting the term Harm Reduction included in the UN’s official drug policy? It is after all, part of Harm Minimisation which is Australia’s official drug policy. The reason is simple. The US have a Zero Tolerance policy for drugs and it was them who pressured the UN not to include the term Harm Reduction. As a neocon, Sophie believes the US is the motherland spreading law& order, freedom & democracy, free markets and capitalism, Christianity, family values & moral direction. There’s no place for Harm Minimisation in a US inspired world.

The "War on Drugs" has failed miserably but there are many Australian politicians who still want Australia to adopt more of the US Zero Tolerance policy. Funny enough, we actually do base most of our drug strategies on the US model with a dash of Harm Reduction. The call for tougher drug sentencing is purely political. Why would we want more of the US Zero Tolerance policy when the US has the highest level of drug use per capita in the world? Is this the “success” we want? Do we want 1 in 37 citizens in the criminal system like the US? Do we want special armed forces shooting innocent bystanders in the crossfire with drug gangs? Do we want millions of people unable to get decent jobs or receive government aid just because they once smoked pot? This is the reality of Sophie Mirabella’s suggestions but there’s no room for such inconvenient truths when you are busy spinning the “Tough on Drugs” line.
The link between illicit drug use and crime is well established and is described as “mutually reinforcing”. So if the Labor Government is tough on crime, as Minister Gillard declared, there’s a clear imperative that it also be tough on drugs.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

On a final note, Sophie’s rant includes a classic anti-drug tactic that is rarely challenged by anyone - the reverse link. Making the connection between illicit drugs and crime is simple enough. You take something that is very popular like drugs and ban them. Huge demand creates extremely inflated prices and since some drugs are highly addictive, users have to regularly resort to crime to pay for them. Because they are banned and with so much money involved, the black market attracts organised crime who run the industry using violence and fear. This is called prohibition. For some reason, there are those who get it mixed up and say that the effect of drugs themselves cause users to delve into crime. Like a group of friends sitting around having a joint when suddenly one of them announces that she is going to become a dealer in illegal firearms. There is a good minute of silence before it sinks in. Under the influence of drugs, others soon declare their intentions for a criminal career as well. A bank robber, a credit card scammer and 2 car thieves. Incredible! But that’s drugs for you.

Tough On Crime Is An Empty Slogan For ALP
The Punch
by Sophie Mirabella
November 2009

The ability of Prime Minister Rudd and his Government to “talk tough” has never been in question. It’s the one thing Labor actually do well.

Remember that first heady year in office when they declared a war on virtually everything – from childhood obesity and whaling, to banker’s salaries, unemployment and even the global financial crisis itself?
Conveniently, the rhetoric has never had to bear resemblance to reality.

Julia Gillard talked tough during her faux stoush with the Unions, while at the same time delivering them unprecedented power and access in the workplace.

Wayne Swan solemnly warned of a “tough budget for tough times” before he delivered one of the biggest spending budgets in our nation’s history.

Kevin Rudd seriously claimed his changes to border security were “tough”, while at the same time creating a situation where the people smugglers are clearly back in business with a record number of illegal boats bobbing in Australian waters.

Heck, the rhetoric can even swing a full 360 degrees to suit the mood – declaring oneself an economic conservative one year, and writing a long treatise on the evils of capitalism the next.

No problem. Whatever suits perceived changes in the tide of public opinion. Whatever gets airplay. Or whatever suits as a distraction from other government failures.

The Prime Minister is currently “spinning” in India, where, just a few weeks back, Julia Gillard spent five days trying to reassure worried Indian families that Australia was a safe place, following violent incidents involving Indian students studying in Australia.

Ms Gillard declared that the Australian Government was tough on crime, adding: “We have zero tolerance towards any violence towards Indian students, any violence at all in our country.”

If only that was the case.

Just this week, in the Annual Report of the Office of Public Prosecutions, the Senior Prosecutor in Victoria Jeremy Rapke QC, accused the State’s judges of lenient sentencing, particularly in drug cases. In so many cases, these Judges have been appointed by Ms Gillard’s Labor colleagues.

Rapke rightly pointed out that the penalties imposed by Courts in drug cases continue to be inadequate having regard to the insidious effect drugs have on society and said that sentences should reflect “the huge public disquiet about the prevalence of drugs”.

The link between illicit drug use and crime is well established and is described as “mutually reinforcing”. So if the Labor Government is tough on crime, as Minister Gillard declared, there’s a clear imperative that it also be tough on drugs.

This is where Labor’s rhetoric once again diverges from reality. Despite declaring a pre-election “war on drugs” in 2007, the Rudd Government has largely abandoned the “Tough on Drugs” initiative that was so successful under the Howard Government.

Funding has been cut for both the Tough on Drugs initiative and the Customs and border protection services that so effectively prevented tonnes of dangerous drugs from being imported and getting to our streets.

At the Annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in March this year, our “tough” Government actually protested that the term “harm reduction” had been pointedly excluded from a political declaration – effectively betraying Labor’s real “soft on drugs” approach and putting us at odds with our traditional ally, the US.

When it comes to being “tough on crime”, Labor’s own policy platform also betrays them, with Chapter 7 declaring “Labor will promote the principles of restorative justice as a just and effective way to be tough on crime.”

Restorative justice? What exactly is that? A core principle in restorative justice is to “balance offender needs, victim needs and the needs of the community as well” (Bazemore and Umbreict 1995).

Note the “offenders needs” are pretty high up on that list. And that’s the sticking point.

At its best, restorative justice gives victims of crime a voice. That’s a good thing. For first offences and petty crimes it is a method of dispute resolution that can be effective if both parties enter into the process with good will.

But more and more often the principle is being applied to serious criminal behaviour.

For judges who philosophically support restorative justice that often means keeping an offender out of jail wherever possible…the theory being that they are unable to “make amends” if confined in prison.

This is an approach pretty much at odds with the “do the crime, do the time” deterrent to criminal behaviour which has long underpinned the system and reflects the sentiment of most of the Australian community.

But leniency and the philosophical belief that “offender needs” must be considered in sentencing mean we continue to see many cases where the time simply does not fit the crime. Nor does it reflect community standards and expectations.

Many Judges, like the Labor Party itself, see the principles of restorative justice as the most “just and effective” approach. That’s certainly debatable – and I don’t have the space in this column to go into all the pros and cons. But one thing restorative justice couldn’t be described as is “tough”.

So how can Labor claim to be tough on crime when their party platform says the opposite? Moreover, and perhaps more significantly given our proud history of judicial independence, Labor are appointing more and more judges who conveniently share Labor’s “go soft” beliefs.

The Victorian State Attorney General Rob Hulls is a case in point. His appointments now make up half the State’s judiciary – among them two “Lawyers for Labor”, a former Labor candidate, and four senior officials from the left-leaning “Liberty Victoria”, along with many other “activist” Judges.

Without commenting on their individual qualifications, I do question whether their collective views are representative of mainstream values. I wonder if the balance is skewed.

As a Barrister myself, I believe it’s important for the judiciary to maintain the confidence of the public by broadly reflecting the community’s concept of “justice”.

As outlined earlier, the Senior public prosecutor in Victoria also seems to think this is important.

As evidenced in some of his appointments, the Labor State Attorney General clearly does not.

Meanwhile, half a world away, our tough talking Labor Prime Minister continues to declare his Government is “tough on crime”.

Plenty of feel-good rhetoric, but reality will inevitably bite.


For some local insight into Sophie Mirabella, check out Ray Dixon’s Alpine Opinion.


Related Articles:
Sophie Mirabella, tough on crime, the war on drugs, blather about liberal softies, and a black dull Friday the 13th indee - Loon Pond
The Liberal Party on Drugs
Jamie Briggs - The MP Who Drank the Kool Aid with Lolly Water
Liberal Party Can't Shake Off Howard's Australia
The Unwinnable War On Dickheads



7 comments:

sunlight said...

I don't understand how the neocon strategy is always "Zero Tolerance" towards things, which means they end up belittling something you could hardly call an opposing position; Harm Reduction. I mean, they'd be justified in giving shit to a position that actively encouraged people to take drugs, but harm minimisation should make the neocons happy - it reduces the damage from drug use, therefore keeping both drug users and the general citizenry happy.

A question - the one in 37 statistic in the criminal system statistic - what do you mean by "the criminal system"? Do you mean merely in prisons, or is it greater?

(Apologies if I sound uniformed, I just started reading your blog and going through your links (so yes, I am uninformed but am trying!))

Andrew said...

Great post.

Reading the comments from that (crock of shit) article was troubling.

"I think we should take the Thailand option; a bullet through the brain stem of a dealer, problem solved. These people get extremely wealthy from the suffering addiction of there clientele, who only go on to perpetrate further crimes in the community to pay for the next fix. If you want to send the message your tough on crime, I can’t see a better platform."

Maybe the problem is not only that people are completely uninformed, but they also don't care about the lives of people who are marginalised. They see people as disposable and death as a valid option. That is a real worry.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Sunlight.

The neocons believe that it's alright to lie to the public if it achieves their goal for a better society. Technically neocons are not supposed to be religious but it's considered a lie worth pushing because it keeps society bound to a set of acceptable guidelines. This has attracted many religious folks especially modern conservatives and evangelists who don't get that it's just a control method. Of course most conservatives believe that personal responsibility is paramount and drug users are weak and deserving of any harm they bring on themselves. Add to that, the evangelists and modern Christians in the US that think religion is about self improvement. For example, they always quote the line from the bible where Jesus said, "God helps those who help themselves". Funny enough, it was Benjamin Franklin who actually said it and it has never appeared in the bible at all.

In short, drug use is seen as immoral and abstinence is the only treatment. They don't care about the safety of users and only giving up drugs altogether is acceptable.

The 1 in 37 US citizens in the criminal system is for jail and parole. 1 in 100 US citizens are in jail. They have 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prisoners. USA ... The land of the free.

Thanks again for reading.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Andrew

You are right. Some people are downright disgusting and I always wonder how they deal with family problems.

I love your line, "They see people as disposable and death as a valid option". Sums it up really.

Firesnake said...

I've feared - and quietly predicted - that Abbott will be next PM. Now he's moving on Turnbull. If Rudd loses the next election it'll be frightening. What sickens me, is not only the actions of "those who lost to Blewett" in 1985.

By that [those who lost] I mean right wing conservatives who despise anything Labor. Blewett was Health Minister at the time Harm Minimisation came in, and Howard, Abbott, Bressignton/Nile/FOLers, Mirabella and foot-soldiers like Bishop never had a doubt they could/can "remoralise" drug policy. Devine is their pin up journo' and a close "mate".

Or, as DFA and Christian Democrats wish - the recriminalisation of immoral behaviour. Even rehab must entail anti-psychotics because only the insane would use illicits. Are we aware Saint George demands mandatory seroquel, Reece mandatory benzo's and both demand social needs - food, housing, child visits, even friggin' pet access, etc - is dependent upon compliance with naltrexone implants and "Christian Ministering" and therapy for sexual orientation? If implants run their course, and you're OK it does not mean "the end" of implants. As an insane drug addict, they might suggest a few more - increasing their sample size.

'Drug Free', 'Tough on Drugs' etc, is simply partisan rhetoric yet due to political point scoring, will always find a voice due to science illiteracy. And I don't mean we need to grasp Einstein's theory. It is the drift to virtual stupor on the back of emotive tabloid themes that "outs us" as incapable of thinking calmly and questioning notions that have given us NCPIC type non-logic and "deadly cannabis driving".

Once we allow "minimise" and "reduce" to fall to "prevent" we condone what might be needed to "prevent" arbitrary concepts - as with Mercy Ministries.

Think of it this way: Billy behaves radically at times, as does Tommy. Billy goes into a room in which his tantrums can be reduced/minimised. Tommy repeats this, yet in his room he may be "compassionately" prevented from tantrums.

It is compassionate because as DFA say, immoral behaviour is "inflicted" upon us by "wrong messages". Read their reply to ROI 2. Drug use was "bankrolled" then addiction spiked as a result - thus we haven't saved money, we've lost money. Exactly what Bressingtons heros claimed about condoms in '85 - they 'send the message' orgies and blood spattering are mandatory. It is all crap, but no-one speaks out.

Who is likely to have their rights abused, and who shall make the decision as to what is allowed to achieve eith reduction or prevention - Tommy Billy or Dr. Compassionate?

But it's the cowardly, crawling, money grabbing, name-tag wearing, council finger food eating hobbyists who are paid to uphold policy initiatives who disgust me most. Safe in the knowledge addicts relapse, it is easy money and often a life sentence for users.

Odyssey and EDAS in Melbourne both won awards this year. Both have failed to answer the criminal abuse of funding, human beings and legislative requirements. Both are useless siphons of funding, quick to abuse any who seek evidence.

These buffoons are more interested in getting "holistic and integrative" in a programme description than in appreciating dynamics. Yet, if they criticise they are at risk of being denied funding.

Cert IV in a few weeks vs 4-6 years of science. Result = such a small pool of qualified staff, only a fraction can blend varied disciplines to see the flaws.

Drug free is ruthless, lethal and evidence free. So, why are people paid up to 150 grand to protect public policies, now slinking into the shadows?

Abbott's a climate change denialist and a denialist of preventative medicine that his religion claims is immoral. Both are rightly noted as crimes against humanity.

Perhaps it's time for more proactive planning.

Carmen from Lindfield said...

@Firesnake
Your assumptions were correct and Mr. A. Abbott is the new Liberal Party leader. Like 2012, the predictions of doom are eminent. We shall prepare for the new frontbench of ignorant fools. Armed with a bible in one hand and a poster of pinup boy, John Howard in the other. Required attire is a uniform of USA underwear, singlet with a picture of Ronald Reagan (Maggie Thatcher. for the ladies), handkerchief with a fish logo, and several pocket size pamphlets explaining why climate change is a hoax.
Congratulations Firesnake, you have such a detailed knowledge of so many evil people. When Jesus 2.0 arrives, they will be the first to catch fire and turn to dust. BURN BABY BURN!

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Firesnake.

Thanks for your post. Awesome as usual.

I especially love this line:
"But it's the cowardly, crawling, money grabbing, name-tag wearing, council finger food eating hobbyists who are paid to uphold policy initiatives who disgust me most. " - LOL!!!

Carmen from Lindfield has a point - "Congratulations Firesnake, you have such a detailed knowledge of so many evil people".

So why is it Firesnake that you know so many evil people? LOL.
--

Thanks Carmen for your insight.

Like FS, you have a unique way of expressing yourself. Especially this line:
"Required attire is a uniform of USA underwear, singlet with a picture of Ronald Reagan (Maggie Thatcher. for the ladies), handkerchief with a fish logo, and several pocket size pamphlets explaining why climate change is a hoax."

Thanking you both for raising the quality of this blog.