Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Show Us Your Drug Policy!

Our New Drug Policy
The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) has written to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott with some questions about their alcohol and drugs policies. I thought I might check out their existing drug policies first but was dismayed to find that they didn’t exist. Both parties had a drug policy not too long ago which raises the question, why were they removed? Where is that infamous Liberal Party, "Tough on Drugs" policy that Howard, Pyne, Bishop (really old one), Mirabella, Ley and Abbott etc. were so defensive of? Where is Labor’s carbon copy? I notice The greens have a very clear and concise drug policy, albeit somewhat watered down in an attempt to appear more mainstream. And why is it that The Greens are the only major party to focus on Australia’s official drug policy of Harm Minimisation? 

Letter to Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard

With time running out in the run-up to the 21 August Federal Election, the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector is disappointed that YOUR policies on alcohol and other drugs have not been made public. Most importantly, the AOD sector wants to know will AOD services fit within the YOUR Government’s plans for National Primary Health Care Reform?


The Australian Greens have come forward with their National Health Care Plan and are to be congratulated for opening up the debate which you, as the leader of YOUR Party, must appreciate is an opportunity to take affirmative action to provide answers to our concerns. To effectively improve the health and social wellbeing of the community, alcohol and other drugs (AOD) initiatives and services must be an integral component of health and social services.

ADCA urges you to recognise the critical importance of giving the highest priority to the health and social problems of AOD misuse, and the need for a strong, adequately trained, and funded AOD sector to address the continuing harms this causes. It is of great importance to the organisations and service providers ADCA represents that YOUR policies and commitment to the services and people who work in the AOD sector are made public, and that they address the context and principles that have been identified.


The announcement of the proposed Australian National Health Reform (NHHN) has the potential for substantial implications for the AOD sector. Treatment for AOD problems includes a range of service types including assessment, opiate substitution, withdrawal and post-withdrawal treatment, residential rehabilitation and drug counselling.


Acknowledging that the NHHN will reform the structure of health services, the funding models, and the funders, it is understood that the timeline for consideration of AOD treatment services has been scheduled for December 2010. While individuals and disciplines across the diverse AOD service system may hold differing views about the best arrangements for AOD services, there is agreement on the following core principles for treatment:

  1. AOD addiction, or dependence, is a chronic medical condition with important social aspects. People with AOD problems often require a wide range of interventions over a long period of time. Strong linkages need to exist between a range of services types for patients to be able to experience good continuity of care and smooth referral processes between treatment types.
  2. AOD services need to exist within non-government and primary health care settings.
  3. A range of disciplines need to be involved (as mentioned previously), and cover both specialist and generalist practitioners.
  4. Treatment must be based on evidence and based on demonstrated quality of treatment.
  5. AOD services need to be adequately funded on a transparent funding formula. Historically and presently throughout Australia, salaries in the AOD sector have been below market standards, making it difficult to raise treatment and assistance services to an evidence-based standard.
ADCA, the AOD sector, and particularly undecided voters deserve to know where you and YOUR party stand on the future health and wellbeing of all Australians.

--Letter to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott from The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) [Full Letter Here]

You can exhale now. Tony Abbott has responded.

Thank you for your recent email to the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Tony Abbott MP. As you may be aware, the Prime Minister has called a Federal Election. Unfortunately, from Opposition, we do not have the resources to respond to your email in detail during the campaign period, but your concerns will be brought to Tony’s attention and that of the Coalition Team.

After three years of Labor Government failures, Australians now have a choice. Broken promises, increased cost of living pressures, massive debt, a Budget deficit, waste and mismanagement and new taxes are all placing unnecessary pressures on Australians. Further, Labor have removed a Prime Minister quickly and ruthlessly, ignoring the wishes of Australian voters. But it is the same government with the same problems creating the same mess.

I hope you will get behind Tony in the weeks ahead as he seeks to stand up for Australia and take real action to end the waste, repay the debt, stop the taxes and ease the cost of living pressures on families. If you would like to read more detailed policy information please go to
--Response form the Liberal Party.

Boy, what a let down. One paragraph explaining they are too busy to have a policy and two more paragraphs of scripted Liberal Party spin.

I remember not too long ago that the Libs were all "Tough on Drugs" and even held an enquiry called The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs”. Several party heavyweights told us the Rudd government was losing focus on the drug war and had to toughen up. Even the leader at the time, Malcolm Turnbull admitted to smoking weed but was then quick to point out, it was a mistake as we know now how dangerous pot is. So, where has the “Tough on Drugs" policy gone?

Yes, I've smoked pot. 
I think now, with what we know about marijuana, I think it is a very serious drug and it is a drug that we should strongly discourage everybody, be they young or old, but obviously particularly young people, from using.

At least the Libs responded to the ADCA letter (sort of). Where was Joolia’s reply? Maybe it’s the long term memory problems that go hand in hand with smoking the killer weed? You see, Joolia is also a self confessed, one time pot smoker. Not to beaten by a Lib namely, Malcolm Turnbull, the following day, Jools said: 

At university, tried it, didn't like it
I think probably many Australian adults would be able to make the same statement so I don't think it matters one way or the other.

You would think that with so many political leaders (including Tony Abbott) confessing to breaking the law and admitting to drug use, they would be more informed about the drug issue.

On a side note, I what to know what politicians tried something harder. At least several US politicians including President Obama (and G.W. Bush in a round about way) admitted to using cocaine. During the 1970s, 80s and 90s, speed, magic mushrooms and LSD were making the rounds and any self respecting university student was bound to have participated at least once. C’mon guys … where’s the confessions of having a few lines of whiz or brewing up a batch of shrooms?

On Wednesday, The National Press Club presented The Hon Nicola Roxon MP VS The Hon Peter Dutton MP health debate. A major disappointment for those who were waiting for a drug policy announcement or discussion. Instead, we got the usual garble with promises to out do each other and each speaker claiming their party had the better health policy. Oh, there was one question about alcohol.

It’s easy to see why organisations like ADCA are disappointed. They are constantly ignored and made to suffer the consequences of misguided drug policies. And when they get finally get a chance to put some pressure on the major parties, they are just shoved aside for more pressing issues like Mark Latham, the real Julia vs. the old Julia or whether no more Workchoices means no more Workchoices. Below is another media alert from ADCA.

ADCA Media Alert (9 August): Three Weeks On – Where are the Alcohol & other Drugs Policies? – Election 2010.- With three weeks down and only 12 days to Election 2010, the conspicuous absence of major policy announcements on alcohol and other drugs (AOD) issues is disturbing.

“The AOD sector wants and needs more than a few elementary statements from Labor, the Liberals, Greens, and the Independents,” the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA), Mr David Templeman, said today. “It is not enough to read about the National Health Care Plan from the Greens, mental health funding and ‘a new investment to tackle AOD abuse in Indigenous communities’ from Labor, and a passing reference to healthcare in the Liberals campaign launch. 

“These are insufficient to stem concerns that all political parties have relegated the immense damaging impact alcohol and other drugs, both licit and illicit, are having on communities, to the bottom of their policy piles.”

Mr Templeman said that the Opposition missed an ideal opportunity at its launch to address the critical AOD priority for all Australians.

“With media reports suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition will consider his position on plain packaging for cigarettes, does this then mean that the alternative government will adopt the same approach on alcohol and other drugs and not come out publicly with definitive policies,” Mr Templeman said. “ADCA can only hope the schedule debate at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday (11 August) will result in both Labor and the Liberals making substantive statements that alcohol and other drugs issues are front and centre in their respective National Primary Healthcare Reform programs.”

Mr Templeman said that the AOD sector would be watching this debate with interest to see what both the Minister for Health, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, and the Opposition Spokesperson on Health, Mr Peter Dutton MP, plan to deliver if elected to Government.  

“To effectively improve the health and social wellbeing of the community, alcohol and other drugs initiatives and services must be an integral component of health and social services,” Mr Templeman said. “If our two major parties won’t come clean on just where alcohol and other drugs sit in Election 2010, ADCA calls on all media organisations to start questioning what is actually planned for a holistic approach to National Healthcare Reform.” 

The Sex Party have released their drug policy. Three cheers to Fiona Pattern and The Sex Party for their scientific yet pragmatic approach to such an important issue.


Anonymous said...

Fingers crossed that the Liberals continue to remain out of touch with"everyman's" needs... Why do they call themselves liberal anyway?,when obviously they are narrowminded
religio-appeasing ,ultra-conservatives...
Personally , i havent been impressed with the uber-scripted approach by the ALP either(but still ,the monk looks more like a snake than the redhead and am sure his loony church mates will want to pressure him to stop err the boats ..umm and the sinning) ..but hoping the Greens get more say in policy and get to hold the majors accountable...
This place definitely has changed in the last 15years...absorbing all the worst of cultural (if ya can call it that) shit from America,including drug policy/the push for the privatization of punishment.Basically , i dont/cant trust the medical pro's in this country either anymore,as the dash for cash intensifies,it'd be naive to think Doctors still even know what the Hippocratic Oath is(lotsa guinea pigs to try new psychotropics on ,on people who could function perfectly well on their drug of "choice")..then again ,it must be hard for the sincere,compassionate GPs who can see right thru the political sludge,and who'd prefer to treat addicts as human beings ,but its not worth the "trouble" when the Govt/AFP knock down ya door coz A) coz they can B) a message needs to be sent...yawn..

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.

Yes, The Liberal Party who are the most un-liberal party out there.

Great summary BTW.

Bradley Ayers said...

Any chance on trying to get an update on their position as of 2012?