Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Q & A: Tory Shepherd - Journalist

Tory Shepherd: The Journalist in Thongs
Name: Tory Shepherd
Role: Journalist with News Ltd. Acting Editor - The Punch. 
Date: May 2011

I must admit that I read The Punch quite a bit. And in my opinion, Tory Shepherd is the stand out amongst the journalistic team. I suppose it's her health perspective that attracts me to her writing although I find her other topics a tad more credible than her colleagues (I could say that being seriously cute might also have some influence but that would only cheapen this article). It's not often that you find a quality journalist in the tabloids with most of them taking positions in the more mature broadsheets. Tory Shepherd is an exception.  

I have been chasing Tory for over a year now to be part of this Q&A series so it's a relief to finally get her views on the issue of drugs. Being the ever professional journalist, you may find some of her answers typical for someone who has a boss in the media but all the same, her answers are straight forward and logical. Thanks Tory for taking the time to participate. I can only imagine what sort of time restraints you operate under.

Bio from The Punch:
Tory Shepherd studied anthropology, then travelled, then studied some more, then travelled, then ended up with a cadetship at The Advertiser in 2006. She covered police rounds, politics, general news and health, while working at The Punch on the side. And doing some more travelling and studying. Now Tory is filling in for the other Tory (Maguire) as editor of The Punch. She is passionate about words, wine, chilli, soccer, and people (even the ones who hate her or keep praying for her soul). Follow her on Twitter - @ToryShepherd 

These are Tory Shepherd’s personal views and not the views of her employer.
A report was published in the medical journal, The Lancet, where psychiatrists who specialise in addiction and legal/police officials with medical expertise were asked to rank the most dangerous 20 drugs. The factors used were physical harm to the user, addictive potential of the drug and the drug's overall impact on society. Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy didn’t even make the top 10. Does this affect your attitude towards their use?
This doesn’t affect my attitude; this merely reinforces what the science has shown for a long time.

Alcohol came number 5 and tobacco came number 9. Does this surprise you?
Yes. I would have thought they’d be higher. Most doctors would tell you that alcohol and ice are the main problem in emergency rooms.

Do you think anti-drug advertisements influence public views on drug use?
Depends which ones.

Should well known sportsmen and sportswomen be tested for non performance enhancing drugs?
I think there are many drugs that wouldn’t be considered performance enhancing that might still be used to advantage, so each drug should be judged on its own effects when it comes to testing sportspeople.

There is now more evidence than ever before that drug addiction is a physical condition and some people are more susceptible to becoming drug addicts. Do you think the public will ever fully understand this?
Nup. I think addiction will forever be a grey area, but that awareness can go a long way to helping non-addicts understand more about addiction.

Do you feel it’s someone right to take illicit drugs?
No, I don’t think it’s a ‘right’. Just like drinking wine is not a ‘right’.

Do you or have you used drugs(including alcohol) recreationally?

Should cannabis be legalised or decriminalised?

Should other illicit drugs be legalised or decriminalised?
It depends on the specific drugs.

John Howard wanted to remove Harm Minimisation as Australia’s primary drug strategy and implement a policy of Zero Tolerance. Do you think most Australians understand what Harm Minimisation really is?
I think harm minimisation was demonised, but most people I know understand what it is. But I hang out with a weird crowd.

From your experience, do fellow journalists actually believe the hype that the war on drugs is winnable?
I really can’t speak for anyone else.

The Greens are often unfairly attacked by other political groups for their “radical” drug policy. Do you have an opinion on this?
I think the Greens need to coordinate their message better and continue to refer to the science.

What are your thoughts on The Greens changing their drug policy to be more in line with the major political parties?
I think the Greens are in a position to pressure the major parties to change their drug policies to be more in line with the Greens.

Do you feel religion affects our drug policy?
Religion affects all policies, as many policymakers are religious.

Do you think a needle exchange program is needed in prisons?
Absolutely. And support to get off drugs.

Results from Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) programs have been very positive overseas and HAT is now more successful than detox, rehab and methadone for long term addicts. Is this program viable for Australia considering John Howard vetoed a HAT trial 11 years ago?
I think we should ignore anything vetoed over a decade ago, look at a cost/benefit analysis, and use whichever programs work best.

Do you think the media in Australia is responsible for much of the public’s views on drug issues.
I do, but I also think even the mainstream media is much more diverse than it is often given credit for.

Do you feel the government does enough when Australians overseas are given barbaric punishments for drug offences?
I think you could often see their stance as hypocritical; but at the same time I’m not privy to the behind-the-scenes negotiations. I strongly believe that they could be more outspoken against our near neighbours’ approach to the death penalty.

What do you think of politicians being labelled “Soft on Drugs” when they suggest alternatives to current drug strategies?
I think it’s easy, lazy, and populist.

Finally, if you were Prime Minister Tory Shepherd and you could change one law relating to drug policy or drug treatment, what would it be?
I’m not sure this would be one law; but where it’s drugs not evilness that’s the problem, I’d divert drug users away from gaol and into programs.

Related Articles (Q&A)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Safe Injecting Room Hysteria Hits Victoria

Picture this scenario. A cancer expert proposes a medical clinic that would not only save dozens of lives each year but save $millions in future costs through preventative care. The proposed clinic from the expert is backed up by thousands of highly qualified peers and he even produces evidence from 91 other similar clinics around the world that show how successful they have been. The local council approves the clinic by a massive 6-1 vote while a local radio station quotes dozens of residents supporting the idea.      

What would you think if our state premier, in front of the media, told the cancer expert, his peers, the council leaders and supporters that the government won't be allowing the clinic to proceed and that instead, they will rely on extending current programs. No big deal, we have heard it all before at least a dozen times. 

What if though, the government' s current programs - the ones they want to expand - have never actually worked? And I'm not just talking about not working in some suburb in Melbourne like Richmond but in every region, in every state and territory in Australia. Not even once has the premier's proposed strategies ever resulted in success in Australia But, what if the premier's suggestion has never even succeeded overseas although it has been the default policy for 40 years in thousands of states, counties and provinces in over 200 countries around the world? Now, that's just ridiculous...

OK, so it's not a cancer clinic but the principle is still the same. If it was actually a cancer clinic, the public, the medical profession, the media and the opposition would be demanding the resignation of the premier and his cronies. What leader would ignore thousands of medical experts and hundreds of scientific studies and instead continue on with a policy that has failed for 40 years and annually costs tens of $billions, kills dozens of people, sends thousands of non violent Australians to prison and causes more societal carnage than any other policy in modern history? The answer is simply stunning. No leader would be that irresponsible, reckless and idiotic to ignore the massive amount of scientific and empirical evidence ... unless it has to do with illicit drugs.  

Why do governments ignore the scientific research behind illicit drugs? For example, why would Ted Baillieu oppose a safe injecting clinic in Richmond so vehemently when Sydney's MSIC has proven itself, again and again through independent, scientific research? If there was ample evidence for a cancer clinic, Uncle Ted wouldn't even hesitate but since it's about drugs, all advice from experts and professionals is simply rejected like a Buck's Fizz CD at a Faith No More concert.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu refuses to approve the state's first heroin injecting centre because he doesn't want to be seen as soft on drugs, a key drugs policy adviser says.

Yarra councillors voted 6-1 on Tuesday night for an injecting room to tackle drug-related problems in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond.

Mr Baillieu insists his government won't sanction the establishment of an injection room along the lines of the Sydney facility that has operated in Kings Cross for 10 years.

"I recognise there's a problem and it's one of the reasons why we want to have more police on the streets," he told Fairfax Radio.

"We haven't supported injecting rooms, we won't support injecting rooms, and I don't support the normalisation of any of this sort of behaviour."

One of Baillieu's answers was to put more police on the streets. This type of response might have been appropriate in the 1970s/1980s but we have had 40 years of successive failures, hundreds of studies slamming the tactic and no proof whatsoever that the suggestion would help the drug problem. In fact, every single scientific study or research project has shown us that an increased police presence simply moves the problem to neighbouring suburbs or a new location. Relying on brute force tactics like law enforcement is not just lazy politics but ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. Is this really the best solution an elected leader can come up with? Decisions like this would not be tolerated in the private sector so why are they allowed when you're the elected premier? This isn't about profit/loss statements or whether company XYZ should increase their marketing budget for SE Asia. The cold, hard reality from decisions about issues like the proposed safe injecting clinic in Richmond can have an enormous impact on families and those who need help the most.

Prof. David Penington said Mr Baillieu's proposal to solve the problem through law enforcement would not work.

"Mr Baillieu is very firmly of the view that everything can be handled by law enforcement," Prof Penington told AAP.

"It's an instinctive reaction.

"It's a problem that is not going to go away with law enforcement. It's something that law enforcement has failed to eliminate over the last 50 years.

"They just fear that anything seen as soft on drugs will increase their use, but in fact, if we look at the evidence from other places and the successful program in Sydney, there isn't any evidence of increased use."

Our antiquated drug laws are devastating the human race, stockpiling addicts in overcrowded prisons and creating havoc for those with mental disorders. The irony is that although only a very small percentage of society end up with major drug problems, the bulk of drug users never have a health problem and only ever run into trouble when they cross paths with law enforcement. The tiny group of troubled drug users are the focus for most of our public policy, the media's attention and the bulk of police resources. Like alcohol abusers, the problematic drug user require most of the available help but after decades of anti-drug propaganda and politicians taking advantage of the publics misguided views usually force politicians into retaining useless and often dangerous drug policies that mostly just appease nervous parents, conservatives and semi-religious community groups.

Those who do end up with an addiction or a drug problem have become fodder for headline writers and self promoting politicians. Gone are the days when addicts were diagnosed with respect by doctors and treated like any other person with a medical issue. Now they are forced into rancid, run down shooting galleries or laneways, away from emergency services. It's bad enough that most users do not know what's in their stash but denying them a safe place to inject it just adds that extra self loathing and self hatred for having to do things to themselves that many of them still can't fully comprehend. 

Being a junkie is as distressful and overwhelming as it gets. And when the despair from your daily ritual to find money also includes being hunted down by military style cops, your dose becomes all that more important. Just try and imagine how knowing there are strangers looking for you, pumped full of hatred because their commander-in-chiefs and our elected leaders publicly insist that you are the scourge of society. Would that affect your state of mind? Why would anyone think that addicts living this life are somehow happy with their situation?

I'm certainly no fan of MTR's Steve Price but what do you say when he writes an article for the Herald-Sun supporting a Safe Injecting Clinic in Richmond? Maybe this is what happens when an intelligent man starts to read between the lines of the usual anti-drug rubbish put out in the trash media? Maybe this is what happens when you are confronted more often with articles based on evidence and facts? Who knows? Whatever the reason, I have to say to Steve Price, well done for an excellent article.

I am really getting fed up with trash media like the Murdoch sewerage pit that spends hundreds of hours looking for new ways to degrade drug users, especially those who are addicts or have HIV/AIDS.  It's always the same; some nasty, cutting headline based on the warped opinion of some religious nutter, bigoted politician, hate group etc. Or it's meant to shock us about how much some program costs. 

Family groups yesterday said they objected to the program.

"We are against both the needle exchange and the condom programs," said Terri Kelleher of the Australian Family Association.

"People aren't making the best decision when they are on drugs, and therefore shouldn't be supplied with condoms. There's no guarantee they are going to use them anyway."

Everyday, there's some derogative article that describes drug users/addict-dealers/addicts etc. as a major threat to society. Especially to our precious children. How many times have you read about an innocent 1-2 year old being in the same room as their scum-of-the-earth parents are taking their deadly methadone or even worse, selling drugs? Does a 2 year old really notice these events while they desperately try to turn Ken or Barbie into contortionists? Do kids this age really stop midway through the TellyTubbies to enquire if the drugs for sale are as good as the previous batch from last week?

Will someone please think about the children!
-Helen Lovejoy (Wife of The Reverend Timothy Lovejoy) 

One of the main targets for criticism are Needle Exchange Programs (NEPs). Never mind the fact that they pay for themselves many times over, some people just cannot cope with the idea of providing clean injecting equipment for drug users. Some groups even object to providing condoms, so there's doom and gloom everywhere.   

Crime Victims Support Association's Noel McNamara said it was "disgusting" taxpayers were funding drug use.

"We're making it easier for people to go on drugs," he said.

"It's appalling that this money is being spent on drug users rather than on people fighting cancer or diabetes."

The US under G.W. Bush banned federal funding to any group that provided syringes or condoms (including HIV/AIDS support groups). Healthcare groups had to spend their funding on abstinence only programs following the "Just Say No" style or groups that promoted no sex before marriage. By the end of his term as president, the US had 1000% more people with HIV/AIDS and blood borne diseases than Australia. Obama changed all that and luckily the rate of drug users and sex workers with blood borne diseases is dropping rapidly. Although the federal laws have changed, it is still illegal in some US states to buy syringes without a prescription. Interestingly, John Howard was a big supporter of US style drug policy.

During the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in 2009, Lawyer, Greg Barns blamed the media for much of the drug hysteria in Australia. And he is dead right. The muck raking might help them sell newspapers and keep silly opinion writers in a job but the end results are deadly. As Barns pointed out, many people get all their information from these media groups and after years of telling the same lies, most people start to believe them as facts. Where's the social responsibility?

Melbourne's 9000 overdoses a year

How are our elected politicians supposed to introduce sensible, evidence based policies with the media stirring up so much controversy about an issue that has been twisted for at least 40 years? Even before the term "War on Drugs" was coined by US President, Richard Nixon, we had "Reefer Madness" and other silly fairy tales circulating like they were facts. 

Shame of our Needle Town

But times have changed. Most drug experts now agree that we cannot continue with a "War on Drugs" mentality but it has to start with some brave politicians to risk putting science before popularity. Luckily, tt has actually started albeit slowly. I just hope Ted Baillieu can be mature enough to support evidence based policy and stand his ground against the biggest fear of all ... being called "Soft on Drugs" by opposing politicians. 

Related Articles

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Once Again, Barnett Proves He is a Liar

Colin Barnett has declared the increasing use of illegal drugs - in combination with binge drinking - is at the heart of Perth's record of street violence.
-The West Australian

Er, sorry Colin but drugs alone rarely cause people to be violent. Booze has officially taken that honour. In fact, alcohol is by far, the most violent drug on earth. Never before in the history of man has a drug proven to cause so much violence, aggression and crime. And to top it off, it's legal, easy to buy and heavily endorsed by celebrities, sports stars and politicians. 

How many people do you know who become violent on ecstasy, cannabis or heroin? Even the so called "ice epidemic" causing violence is a myth.

Interviewer: My guests today in Melbourne University Up Close are Associate Professor John Fitzgerald and Dr. Fances Bramwell.
So, John, essentially what you are saying is that, in Australia there is no epidemic of ice use.
Associate Professor John Fitzgerald, Principal Research Fellow at the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne: Yeah, and it is not to say that ice use is not problematic.

Alcohol accounts for 97% of all violence whilst under the influence of a substance. Illicit drugs ranks a lowly 3%. And out of that 3%, sleep depravation from amphetamine type drugs is responsible for half of that, not the violent reaction from the drug itself. With less than 1.5% of substance induced violence associated to illicit drugs, it is easy to assume that 99% of those classed as being aggressive are naturally violent regardless of any substance they may have taken. 

Drinking is not new - and I don't defend or excuse that in any sense. But excessive drinking and combining with drugs is clearly leading to more violent behaviour
-Colin Barnett

Any drug taker will tell you the simple truth ... drugs cause the opposite reaction of being violent. Many of them bring on confidence, friendship, empathy, sexuality, pleasantness, a need to communicate, feelings of euphoria, camaraderie etc. Other drugs make you drowsy and uninterested in anything confrontational. Others will make you "trip" where everything around you becomes magical and exciting. No drug I know of gives the user any need to be aggressive or violent ... except booze.

But what clearly stands out in this article is the contradictory comments by the premier compared to those who actually patrol the streets - The Police. 

WA Police have emphasised alcohol rather than drugs in the debate about violence in entertainment precincts that has raged after recent tragic incidents in Northbridge and Cottesloe.

Operation Unite commander Supt Scott Higgins said the root of violence was complex but alcohol was a consistent theme.
-The West Australian

Is this because the premier's drug of choice is booze ... A dangerous drug that harms people thousands of times more often than street drugs? 

"With people drinking in parks, homes, in pubs and clubs, whether they're taking drugs or not taking drugs, the consistent thing is alcohol," he said.
-The West Australian

Or is it because the drug he prefers to use causes far more carnage to society than any illicit drug?

What I really want to know is why the opposition and the media has not challenged Barnett to these ludicrous claims? There is no evidence whatsoever or scientific report ever produced that associates the effects of illicit drugs with excessive violence.  In fact, there are only two examples of violence resulting from drugs. One is when drugs are used in conjunction with alcohol and the other is in the business side of selling drugs. Ironically, both of these are purely the result of government policy.

I'm sorry Colin but you are once again on record, lying about the issue of illicit drugs. Are you really that arrogant that you think the vast majority of Western Australians don't have the ability to check your claims on the internet? Or are you just so out of touch with reality that you think the internet is just some gizmo from a sc-fi novel? My guess is that you know darn well that the failed policy of drug prohibition has wreaked havoc on society for nearly 50 years but since it continues to win you votes, you will keep pretending to support it. And we wonder why the public thinks that Australian politics has gone to shit?

Premier Says Drugs Have Role In Violence
Gareth Parker And Gabrielle Knowles, 
May  2011

Colin Barnett has declared the increasing use of illegal drugs - in combination with binge drinking - is at the heart of Perth's record of street violence.

As WA Police continued to emphasise the role of alcohol amid a weekend crackdown that saw 435 people charged in Operation Unite, the Premier said drinking had always been an issue but the level of illegal drug taking was new.

He also suggested young West Australians' higher incomes relative to the rest of the nation could be fuelling the drug abuse.

"There is no doubt income levels in WA are probably $20,000 more than the rest of the country and there are a lot of people, often young people, who are on high incomes," Mr Barnett said.

"Many of them might be fly-in, fly-out mine workers who are in Perth in their week off, they have a lot of money to spend and they party too hard.

"Drinking is not new - and I don't defend or excuse that in any sense. But excessive drinking and combining with drugs is clearly leading to more violent behaviour."

WA Police have emphasised alcohol rather than drugs in the debate about violence in entertainment precincts that has raged after recent tragic incidents in Northbridge and Cottesloe.

Operation Unite commander Supt Scott Higgins said the root of violence was complex but alcohol was a consistent theme.

"With people drinking in parks, homes, in pubs and clubs, whether they're taking drugs or not taking drugs, the consistent thing is alcohol," he said.

At the weekend, police charged 435 people with 462 offences, including 391 traffic offences, 10 assaults and five assaults on public officers.

Supt Higgins said police were most concerned by the number of motorists drink-driving, with 138 caught driving over the limit, including 18 charged with driving under the influence.

In addition, a Victoria Park man has been charged over a one-punch assault in Northbridge that left a 26-year-old with head injuries.

The man hit his head on the pavement and lost consciousness after he was allegedly king-hit outside the Republic Nightclub in Shafto Lane about 12.30am on Saturday.

Police claim the attacker, also 26, was thrown out of the nightclub seconds earlier and allegedly punched the other man after mistaking him for someone else.

Colin Barnett was the winner of the 2009 Bucket Head of the Year award. Here it is again just to refresh your memory.

The ultimate anti-drug zealot who made a huge impact on the downfall of rational thinking and sensibility in 2009. Unlike the category for Most Dangerous Anti-Drug Campaigner, The Bucket Head of the Year can be literally a “Bucket Head” Think of Rove, Bronwyn Bishop, Daryl Somers etc. They might be dangerous or just plain stupid but they must be worthy of scorn and criticism.

Colin Barnett
WA Premier (LP)

Trying to top last year’s winner, Anne Bressington, is not easy but WA premier, Colin Barnett has made a gallant attempt. Introducing new laws infamous for failing globally, to replace existing laws that have been succeeding could be interpreted as brave and insightful. Unfortunately for Colin “Barney Rubble” Barnett, it wasn’t. It was seen for what it really was ... an out-of-touch old man clinging desperately to his stagnant ideology and putting faith into strategies that have failed miserably for the last 40-60 years which are rapidly on their way out. Only a brave man indeed would remove a modern, successful drug policy because of myths like “The Gateway Theory” and other junk science. Someone should point out to Barney that the internet(yes Barney, that TV looking thing on your desk) means politicians can no longer just say what they want and the public have to take it as gospel. 

Barney is also introducing “Stop and Search” laws, claiming it will cut down on street violence and anti-social behaviour by seeking out those carrying knives or drugs. In certain designated areas, police can stop and search any person without provision of reasonable suspicion. What the hell drugs have to with weapons is yet to quantified.

Barney is a dying breed which probably sums up the current Liberal Party and some of the Labor Party. It's not that his drug policies are just useless and counter-productive but they are also dangerous. To underplay the deaths and misery caused by these policies for political gain or for personal ideology is disgraceful and should be seen as a criminal act. A “Tough on Drugs” mentality has caused massive damage in every country that adopts this approach and after 100 years of drug prohibition globally, some common sense is finally emerging. Sadly, this doesn’t include Colin Barnett.

On a lighter side ... man, is he funny or what? That bloodhound face looking like it was made from plastic. The monotone political rhetoric putting TV viewers to sleep. Walking around Northbridge at night to prove it is family friendly only to be confronted with some druggie asleep in a doorway. But it was an accidental camera pan of several heavyweight body guards that blew his cover as the brave leader walking the streets alone. And of course, the references to old, debunked urban myths about drugs that had much of WA’s youth rolling around the floor in hysterics and experts scratching their heads in bewilderment. Good stuff, Barney.

I proudly present to you, this years BucketHead of the Year for 2009 ... WA Premier, Colin Barnett.

Related Articles

Monday, 16 May 2011

Debate - All Drugs Should Be Legalised

The program:
An annual series of provocative and informative live debates on the hot-button concerns of the day.

The goals:
The goals of IQ² Australia are to:
  • raise the level of public discourse on our most challenging issues;
  • provide a new forum for intelligent discussion, grounded in facts and informed by reasoned analysis;
  • transcend the toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological; and
  • encourage recognition that the opposing side has intellectually respectable views.

The approach:
To take the traditional 'grammar' of Oxford-style debate seriously, with one side proposing and the other side opposing a sharply-framed motion. Three speakers - leading thinkers and authorities on the issues - argue on each side of the motion.

After the formal arguments, the debate is thrown open to the floor for debate and questions, triggering a lively interchange among the speakers and audience members. A well-known moderator keeps the proceedings orderly.

Each side attempts to persuade the audience to vote their way. This adversarial context is electric, adding drama and excitement. The live audience will vote on the motion both before and after hearing the arguments, so there is a clear measure of how far people have actually been swayed.

The where and when:
The debates are held in Sydney at the City Recital Hall Angel Place and in Melbourne at Melbourne Town Hall. Doors open at 6:00pm, the debate begins at 6:30pm 6:45pm and will end promptly at 8:30pm.

As in London and New York, the live audience - including the movers and shakers of Sydney’s media, policy and business worlds - may choose to continue the discussion at some of the city’s fine local restaurants.

Note from The Australian Heroin Diaries
32.3% of people were undecided before the debate. After the debate, less than 3% of them disagreed while a whopping 22.2% agreed with legalising all drugs. The end result had 69% agreeing with legalising all drugs while only 23% disagreed. 8% were still undecided.


All drugs should be legalised

Handcuff encircling the word 'drugs'.
10 May 2011 - Sydney
The use of mind-altering substances has been part of the human experience for millennia.
While accepted within the contexts of spirituality and medicine, these drugs have been proscribed regularly when used purely for recreational purposes.
In most cases, prohibition has failed to curb demand and the provision of illicit drugs has become the lucrative trade of organised crime – with the associated ills of corruption, violence and health risks.
Some people urge tighter restrictions on all recreational drugs as the cure for social ills linked to their use and abuse. Others argue that all drugs should be legal – subject only to prudent regulation.

Poll results

At each IQ² debate the audience is polled on the topic, both before and after the debate takes place. Here are the results for this debate:
Pre-debate pollPost-debate poll

Watch the video

The video for this debate will be availble soon.



  • Nicholas Cowdery AM QC BA LLB was the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions running the largest prosecuting agency in Australia from 1994 to 2011. He became a Barrister in 1971 and was Public Defender in Papua New Guinea for four years. As a Barrister in private practice in Sydney, he specialised in criminal law appearing in many high profile cases including the prosecutions of the late Justice Lionel Murphy (of the High Court of Australia) and of the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (former Premier of the State of Queensland). He is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and the Advisory Committee, Sydney Institute of Criminology and the National Advisory Committee, Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, University of Wollongong. He is the author of Getting Justice Wrong: myths, media and crime.
  • Wendy Harmer is a prominent Australian broadcaster, entertainer and veteran of countless international comedy festivals. She has presented top-rating morning radio and has hosted, written and appeared in a wide variety of TV shows including ABC's Big Gig and In Harmer's Way. Harmer is the author of several books for adults, two plays and a series of children's books. She has also hosted the television Logie Awards and has been a regular newspaper and magazine contributor.
  • Dr Alex Wodak AM is a physician and has been Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent’s Hospital since 1982. His major interests include prevention of HIV among injecting drug users, treatment of drug users and drug policy reform. Dr Wodak is President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and was President of the International Harm Reduction Association (1996-2004). He helped establish the first needle syringe program (1986) and the first medically supervised injecting centre (1999) in Australia when both were pre-legal. Dr Wodak helped establish the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (1987) and the Australian needle syringe program annual survey (1995).


  • Jade Lewis is a former drug addict who now campaigns and educates against use of illegal drugs. As a young teenager she was a champion junior athlete who competed internationally, and won the WA Doug Hancy Award, Athlete of the Year and Junior Sportswoman of the Year. Her records remain unbeaten in Western Australia. Her later heroin addiction, criminal behaviour and volatile relationships are recorded in her book, Golden Haze. She now educates at schools on positive relationships and runs a program for women prisoners.
  • Dr Greg Pike is the Director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in Adelaide, South Australia where he focuses primarily on the influence of bioethics on public policy development. He trained as a physiologist with a PhD in muscle electrophysiology, becoming Hospital Research Scientist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in the Department of Surgery. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Australian Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Program and a member of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, has served as a Deputy Member on the SA Council on Reproductive Technology and was a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee for the 2006-09 triennium.
  • Paul Sheehan is one of the most thought-provoking commentators in Australia today. A columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, Sheehan is a prominent writer and has written on the bigger debate about the politics of cultural diversity in contemporary Australia. He is one of Australia's best-selling authors with three best-selling books including, most recently, the number-one best-seller, Girls Like You.


Dr Simon Longstaff has a PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge. Prior to becoming the inaugural Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre in 1991, Dr Longstaff worked in the Northern Territory in the Safety Department of BHP subsidiary, GEMCO, lectured at Cambridge University and consulted to the Cambridge Commonwealth and Overseas Trusts. His book Hard Cases, Tough Choices was published in 1997. Dr Longstaff was inaugural President of the Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics and is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum. He is Chairman of Woolworths Limited Corporate Responsibility Panel and AMP Capital Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee and serves as Member on a number of Board Committees.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Drug Free Australiaʼs Dr. Stuart Reece & Culpable Abuse Of Patients

If you're part of the movement that opposes vaccines for kids, a homeopathy witch doctor or one of the dangerous, anti-harm minimisation loon squad, then the chances are you have been targeted sometime by Paul Gallagher. As one of Australia's leading skeptics, Paul Gallagher is especially passionate about those who reinterpret science as some kind of self righteous crusade usually involving their religious beliefs or personal ideology. Read on as Paul uncovers some disturbing truths that feel more akin to a science fiction novel than something that can happen in a so called, advanced society. 

By Paul Gallagher

A critical look at faith based practices and superstition used in the abuse of heroin dependent patients, in conjunction with poorly monitored naltrexone prescription.
Dr. Reece continues to practice today and still claims to hold “a world safety record” in naltrexone prescription, despite over 25 fatalities in 20 months.
He continues to write in the anti-drug, ambitiously named Journal of global drug policy and practice. See final pages.
We begin with publications from just after Dr. Reece found the QLD Medical Tribunal indefinitely adjourned his case.
This easy to access and a pleasure to read, embedded PDF of Focus magazine has two relevant stories. On page 1 we meet Graham Preston who was jailed back in June 2003 for pro-life antics. His sole direction was Proverbs 24, verse 11: “Rescue those being led away to death”. Note the bias in how his story is reported and please understand this is an excellent example of using religion to cement tribal cohesion. Now read the story on page 2: Naltrexone Doctor Vindicated and remind yourself of the above proverb. Dr. Reeceʼs “feelings were hurt”. No news on how the 25 corpses are feeling.

For the record, not only is it entirely irrelevant to launch ad hominem attacks on the application of demonstrably efficacious therapy {MMT}, but the claims made have been followed up and found to be fallacious. These statements simply reinforce that fundamentalist indoctrination and zealotry of such lethal extent is resilient to rehabilitation. Attacking an evidence based therapy indicates his aim was never about adding to the rehabilitation arsenal. It was about a personal vendetta over old funding disagreements and his religious conviction that certain policies are immoral. Science is immoral, evolution is immoral, democracy is immoral... Anything not backed by bible blubbery is of course, immoral.

In reality the QLD Health Practitioners Tribunal adjourned indefinitely over the 25 deaths at his bastard baptising, demon exorcising, sin stopping, faith healing hands. Letʼs consider a more expansive view, given that he has since claimed multiple times – and before a Parliamentary inquiry – to “hold the world safety record” in administering the very treatment he killed 25 Aussies with. Like most junk scientists his arguments arenʼt about his supporting evidence, as much as about misinforming people about aspects of medicine he considers immoral. Much like homeopathy, Christian fundamentalism as a medical option [christian science] must discredit that which exposes itʼs lies: simple, ordinary evidence. Dr. Reece is the gentleman who coined the term “hedonistic delirium” to describe modern democracies. Or the simply gorgeous: “Sometimes the best way forward, is the way back” in a brave attempt to argue pre-industrial revolution societies were superior.

Okay – letʼs begin. By 1999 Australia knew naltrexone was far from safe despite “miraculous” stories of recovery. Wodak and Hall discussed the evidence in an editorial in the MJA, that also briefly noted the role of the media in confusing community attitudes. Stuart Reece would never forget this and has “blamed” not only these scientists but projected responsibility for his disgusting conduct onto these very individuals. He has slandered both of these brilliant internationally renowned scientists whilst under Parliamentary protection accusing Hall of “scientific fraud” [Page 61/FHS 55 ]. And he has ignored the Hippocratic oath in his quest to slander and destroy Dr. Wodakʼs reputation.

In September 1999 after being raided and threatened with closure he claimed the QLD government would have blood on itʼs hands if he didnʼt get his way. 20 months later, 25 patients were dead  because he got exactly what he wanted. He was raided and closed down again, much to the ire of the Christian Democrat Party – whose “federal drug policy” proudly claims individual Aussies have no civil rights in this respect. Biblical love is in abundance whenever Dr. Reece is faced with evidence. Three months after claiming 25 “drug addicts” died as “part of a conspiracy”, Reece dropped all pretense and did the media circuit as a faith healer. In fact these “patients” earned him thousands of dollars per head only to be prescribed addictive benzodiazapines – later to contribute to cause of death – as the untrialled and untested naltrexone failed. Had basic support – such as a contact or counseling – been available, heroin overdoses would be highly unlikely. As I noted above, this was never about helping addicts so much as winning a moral argument, and the lucrative contracts that must one day follow.

In October 2005 Christian conservative Tony Abbott MP Liberal (then Federal Health Minister) funded Drug Free Australia to the tune of $600,000. They breached almost every condition under which they were awarded the funding, ultimately emerging as right wing lobbyists – not therapists – and set about promoting Creationism, Conservatism and Punishment for all. They are devout followers of Swedenʼs zero tolerance policy and the USA hardliners [open letter] who cling to lucrative contracts and powerful identities. Reece, a supporter of biblically driven abstinence and Texas trained fundamentalist was back with backing.

By April 2007 Dr. Reece was testifying to a Parliamentary Inquiry that the immoral policies that permitted condoms – the real cause behind AIDS – clean needles, opioid therapy for addicts, non-punitive cannabis laws, harm reduction and general tolerance for ill Aussies would be our doom. In utter amazement the Senate Standing Committee stared as this “expert” whoʼd introduced himself by saying “I certainly know the science”, displayed a photo of “the archaeological site of Sodom” and a tree with snakes instead of branches. [Page 33/FHS 27]. The point to this? “There will be consequences”.

As reported in Crikey by Ray Moynihan our world expert decided the “disease drugs, sex and rock-n-roll” was the problem at hand. Asked about the safety of naltrexone, Dr. Reece immaturely attacked the internationally renowned scientist, Dr. Wodak [Page 59/FHS54], who specialiseʼs in blood born viruses and epidemiology – which means he supports condoms, clean syringe access and used syringe collection: dire threats to our very civilisation, claimed Reece. This childish ad hominem approach is common despite the fact entire shires with dozens of dispensaries and hundreds of clients report no methadone deaths. A minority report death, and methadone is one toxic substance on a list of many. It is taken under supervision, immediately after being prepared by a pharmacist. Compared to 25 deaths at the hands of one man in a year and a half, a scattering of deaths across hundreds of outlets in every state, is of no significance. Dr. Albert Stuart Reeceʼs real world record is clearly in reckless fatalities.

How did Committee Chairperson react to this insanity? Bronwyn Bishop slandered and abused public health scientists yet gushed uncontrollably in support of Dr. Reeceʼs voodoo. A pre-determined agenda in what was billed as the most important family relevant inquiry of Howardʼs government spoke volumes. Bishops final report was rejected nationwide by all but religious fundamentalists and Christian lobbyists. Read my lips. Not one single publically funded treatment or advocacy agency in our nation missed the opportunity to criticise in scathing terms her “report”. Which you may remember from coverage of her wish to “take the children” of drug users with “absolutely no chance” of reunion.

Gordon Moyes also forgot about Proverbs 24, Verse 11 shouting praise for naltrexone despite the grave concerns of our medical community about it remaining unregulated – but lucrative for the same people year in, year out. When the Medical Journal of Australia exposed the fact these same misguided faith healers were not reporting adverse reactions – despite TGA requirements under the Special Access loophole demanding it of them – Dr. Gods team were having none of this “academic stuff”. Drug Free Australia actually published a sorta, kinda rebuttal. And yes, adorning the page is direct reference to Dr. Stuart Reece himself. In deeply offensive mockery boasting how Reece “studies” death rates post treatment they entitled their piece of twaddle, Australia could be the biggest loser.

I could go on and on, and the above is a cut down sanitised version sparing you Dr. Reeceʼs sickening obsession with teenage and childhood sex and sexual assault, murder, violence... all due to “the depraved advertising industry” which catalysed “the disease sex, drugs and rock-n-roll”. Advertising womenʼs nudity, outside of “a strictly medical context” is, in his ever so wise [and medically qualified] eyes, “incredibly powerful pornography.”

Today, a decade plus since this intellectual repugnance began, Reece is front and centre as a pin up boy for religious fundamentalism. Three years ago he promised Parliament with a blinding flash of Peacock Terminology that his results were “statistically powerful” and “revolutionary”. Of course, there are no results. Itʼs the same certainty that only faith can sustain. If prayer cures homosexuality, addiction is a certainty. His latest work “proves” naltrexone is safer than opioid therapy. As reported on ABCʼs 7:30 Report  in 2006 multiple disciplinary teams have steadily found naltrexone has a fatality rate over four times that of opioid therapy. Dr. Reece, and others who seek funding and massive contracts seem to have a magic formula no others can find.

My point to this indulgent diversion is that Australia is no stranger to standing back with folded arms and by not acting as we would expect a just society to act, reinforces the misguided belief that religion is the “untouchable” tool. For over ten years a huge part of our public health system has been exploited in the name of religion. How have we allowed progressively malignant superstition to dictate to us on morality? Given the example set by the USA why are we intentionally expanding and funding fundamentalist religions? Why do we insist that junk Christian science is “harmless” and ones own choice, in the same way we insist alternative medicine is harmless and “an informed choice”?

Only in recent years has the orchestrated rejection of default respect for religion found a strong voice. We no longer accept in total the authority of those who use God as an `excuse – as we see done above – but we still have a very long way to travel intellectually. I would also argue that we must not be led further astray by those who use the “F Word” – family values – so liberally. The value of any family is much like the institution of marriage. Place it above human rights and human beings will be abused in the name of subjective value judgement.

So my greatest question is along the lines of concerns already raised: the intentional maligning of science. In its typical tradition, the splintered and fractured divergences of Christianity that stoke the engine furnace of conservative fundamentalism invite steadily more bizarre practices into its protective fold. Only a fool would accept abundant taxation and Equal Opportunity exemption is not exploited and as with all power, will be jealously guarded and arrogantly inflated.

How long before we as a community demand legislators acknowledge that default cap in hand respect and trust is fraught with risk already evidenced by the abuse of our vulnerable, flagrant law breaches, financial scams, bigotry, insouciant discrimination and, as seen with orchestrated child sexual abuse, an excuse for crushing immorality? What future can we expect if we allow this illusion of god-given elitism to increasingly include rejection of realities that conflict with demonstrably false and absurd beliefs? How long before Equal Opportunity exemption includes rejection of educational standards? Is not freedom of religion at risk of abandoning its duty to community cohesion such that Christians may enjoy an escape from reality?
Already we allow home schooling that is overtly biblical and anti-ʼmodernityʼ. We permit dietary restrictions that run in direct contrast to national daily nutritional intake requirements, never questioning if the children starved of iron and protein this way are simply pawns in their parents deluded vacuum. We allow parental denial of the administration of medical technology that would save a childʼs life: a simple blood transfusion. Anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists promote “conscientious objection”. We fund schools not to educate students but to fill their minds with archaic ideals. Ideals so easily refuted by merely looking around our Fair Go nation that a great deal of supporting intellectualism is spent mocking, discrediting and misinforming on the topic of science.

The Christian god demands he be loved above and beyond any and all – including family members. Having perhaps not insignificant experience fending off ʻchapter and verseʼ arguments Iʼm reminded by this video [Part 2] of Abraham and Gods test of his loyalty. He was ordered to kill his son on Mount Moriah according to Genesis 22: 1-24. Not until he had bound his son Isaac to a sacrificial alter and held the dagger aloft did good oleʼ god step in and say, “Ho, Ho – just joshing old friend”. Or, words to that effect.

The final question is perhaps, how many will be abused, exploited, tormented, mocked, slandered and threatened simply because we are yet to demand the burden of proof be met? But to do so in any serious legislative manner is to lose ones political influence. A direct loss of votes. Religious apologetics – even moderate Christian Kevin Ruddʼs “working families” dash to church each week – is steadily cranking that heavy jagged wheel of global superstition.

And it is our very selves and our species brightest traits that is crushed beneath.

Comments posted online from a relative and a friend of Reeceʼs patients.
Just Jules says: June 5, 2010 at 6:01 am Ahhh there is none so blind as those who can not see .. Dr Reece in my eyes is a discusting (sic) human being .. I am the mother of a child he treated .. He also treated my daughter in law and the mother of my first grand child .. If you want to see what his methods leave you with, go see my daughter in law who for the last 11 years has been in a home for the severely brain damaged .. In is own words to me ” they are just reoffending drug addicts”. He is a wolf in sheeps clothing and should of been stopped before he started

Vicki PS says: July 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm I came across this site looking for help for a friend of my daughterʼs. This young woman has been increasingly unhappy with her treatment under Dr Reece. He is treating her addiction with Suboxone, a subutex/naltrexone combination drug. Her big concern is that this unethical, immoral disgrace to the profession reduces her dosage if she has not been to church! This girl is now in early pregnancy and is scared that she could miscarry if this idiot messes around with her medication to suit his pathological world view. I find it frankly incredible that Dr Reece is still permitted to practice.

Stuart Reece:
The Journal Of Global Drug Policy And Practice
Gordon Moyes - “a Christian voice in politics”:
House Standing Committee on Family and Human Services: Australian Parliament
Inquiry into the impact of illicit drug use on families. Chair: Bronwyn Bishop MP - Liberal Party.

Final Report - The Winnable War on Drugs - Bronwyn Bishop September 13th, 2007. Audio of Bishopʼs launch of The Winnable War 

"To the crimes against humanity, it is incumbent upon us as oath takers, advocates of neutrality, professionals and ethicists to note one more. The intentionally malignant anthropomorphism of "science". Science is the vehicle that set us free and we owe our global cousins everything we have gained - indeed as we gain.

To demand that affluent society must now see it as a lumbering, monstrous, "evil" and sentient agent with the single aim of polluting human morale is puerile, ideological, mischievous and markedly in error. We are agents of morality far, far before and because we are agents of evidence."
- Paul Gallagher. August 2009

Paul Gallagher. May 5th, 2011 - republished from October 17th 2009. Copyright: All Rights Reserved.