Name: Fiona Patten
Role: President of the The Australian Sex Party and candidate for the senate in the 2010 Federal election.
Date: September 2010
Prior to the election, Ms Wright and I talked about starting our own political party. We discussed a few key policies and then decided on the name, The Common Sense Party. It might have only been a bit of fun at the time but incredibly, I found a party with almost identical policies - the Australian Sex Party. What really stood out was their drug policy with a call for drug use to be a health issue, not a criminal problem. And on top of this were the convictions of their leader, Fiona Patten. A pretty good start for my introduction to the Australian Sex Party.
In the 2010 federal election, the Australian Sex Party received over 250,000 first preferences for the senate which is more than 2% of the national vote. Maybe next election, Fiona will get her party over line and a place in the senate. With so many dubious politicians currently holding office and the conservative trend in Australian politics, Fiona’s pragmatic views on drug policy would be greatly welcomed.
I admire everyone who participates in this Q & A and Fiona Patten is no exception. Putting your convictions out for public scrutiny is not for the faint hearted especially in the political arena. But, it’s the lack of political garble from Fiona, that sets her aside from most mainstream politicians. Just like the debate on Channel Seven’s Sunrise where Fiona and Family First’s Wendy Francis went head to head. It was interesting to see how Wendy Francis resembled an old political workhorse without ever holding office while Fiona avoided much of the usual rhetoric. I like Fiona Patten, I like her style and her policies. It’s a shame we don’t have more politicians like her debating the facts without the bullshit.
More about Fiona Patten (Wikipedia)
Why do you have such strong views about drug policy?
Firstly we are a civil libertarian party and want to see less government intervention in our private lives. Personally drugs have impacted on my life in many ways. I have lost friends, nearly lost family members and have taken drugs myself.
Why do you support decriminalisation rather than legalising drugs?
Decriminalisation takes drugs out of the legal framework rather than creating a new legal framework. I think decriminalisation for personal use especially is the right approach.
You support medical marijuana, which many experts consider is just common sense. Why has this issue not been debated so readily in Australia like the US?
Do you support more safe injection clinics like the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC)?
I certainly do either as clinics such as the King Cross one or mobile versions. The evidence proves beyond doubt that they save lives. It was very disappointing that Victorian Premier Brumby has ruled out establishing such a service in Victoria. I have spent of a lot of the last decade in and around Kings Cross and I have seen a reduction in public drug use.
Do you think a needle exchange program is needed in prisons?
Yes without a doubt as well as making condoms available.
Do you support Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) programs?
Yes. Again the evidence is there to show that these programs are successful. From a layman such as myself why would you exchange one addictive drug for another in treating the addiction of the first? It seems far more sensible to continue treatment with the original drug.
You and your party have had some favourable press of late. Were you expecting the press to be so endearing?
We are still a very young party but I think the media is starting to get over their initial giggles. I think that they may also be recognising that our platform represents the opinions of a lot of Australians.
Do you feel it’s someone’s right to take illicit drugs?
I believe that adults should have the right to choose how they live their lives. We have abolished laws against attempted suicide and suicide. No one says it better than John Stuart Mill.
“The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”
Do you or have you used drugs(including alcohol) recreationally?
Yes and Yes
What are your thoughts on The Greens changing their drug policy to be more in line with the major political parties?
It doesn't surprise me. They are now one of the majors. It is the price of success, you want more. But to achieve that you need to attract votes from broader and broader sections of the community. I also think that as the Green's party machine grows it becomes more conservative and preferring "safe" policy options.
Australia appears to be following the US and placing more emphasis on religion in politics. Do you feel this effects our drug policy?
Apart from Graham Long at Wayside chapel I have not heard a religious leader ever call for drug law reform. Most religions by nature are about controlling the actions of people and this of course extends to drugs. I remember when the head of the Salvos was on Prime Minister Howard's Drug council - he held us back hugely.
Do you have any predictions for the future of Australia’s drug policy under a Labor or Liberal government?
Sadly I doubt much will change although there are a number of reformers such as Dr Alex Wodak who are trying to present an economic argument for law reform and maybe that will cut through.
Do you feel frustrated by the public’s ignorance regarding drug myths and their willingness to accept misinformation from the government and media outlets?
I have certainly had a some passionate arguments with people including some of our candidates about our drug policy but when you can show the research and evidence I usually bring them around. I probably live in a bit of a bubble but most of the people I some into contact with acknowledge that the "war on drugs" has failed.
Do you think the general public understand the damage caused by the "War on Drugs"?
I think more and more are seeing through the rhetoric of "being hard on drugs". So many people's lives have now been affected by drugs. They know someone who's life was damaged by drugs or whose home/car was broken into because of drugs. They probably are not aware of the cost of the war and maybe Alex Wodak is right, that is the story we need to be telling.
What do you think of politicians being labelled “Soft on Drugs” when they suggest alternatives to current drug strategies?
I feel disappointment when a politician is labelled as such. The few politicians I know who have suggested alternatives are some of the toughest people I know. Kate Carnell in the ACT is a good example.
Finally, if you were Prime Minister Fiona Patten and you could change one law relating to drug policy or drug treatment, what would it be?
I have never found it easy to choose one of anything but in this case I would introduce one law and that would be similar to the Portugese Decriminalisation Statute that would set in place a framework to decriminalise the use and possession of all drugs.
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