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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a NSW Police officer and I am definitely for recreational use, it should be the individuals responsibility be safe just like with alcohol and tobacco. The government (my employer) has no right to limit our decisions in life only effect us. Why aren't they banning all snackfoods isn't obesity the number 1 problem. How are young people supposed to have fun and be social when alcohol is a depressant and a toxin without stimulants like the ever heavenly MDMA which has not addictive chemicals to a humans physiology.