|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)
Sandra Kanck - Former South Australian MLC. South Australia spokesperson for Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (FFDLR)
Andrew Bartlett - Former Leader of the Australian Democrats and the Australian Senate. Candidate for the Greens in the 2010 Federal election.