|Issue No 12||07 May 1999|
Naomi Steer on the Drug Policy Forum
The Labor Council-sponsored Drug Policy Forum on 13 May is an important step in developing informed debate over the drug policy issue.
Coming as it does on the eve of the NSW government's drug summit to be held in the opening week of parliament.(May 17 -21) the forum will give not only Labor Council delegates an opportunity to hear all sides of the debate but also to enable the trade union movement to make a positive contribution to the public debate on this issue.
Speakers at the forum will represent several viewpoints in the current debate over drug policy reform. One of the prime movers behind the establishment of the controversial safe injecting room at Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross Dr Alex Wodak head of the drug and alchol unit at St Vincent's Hospital will speak as well as two parents of drug users who belong to the Family Support Group. Paul Moulds who runs the Salvation Army's youth program OASIS will put his alternative views about the way forward.
That Labor Council should be intervening in the debate is without question.The drug problem touches the trade union movement and its members in many ways.From the workers such as the police and health workers who deal with social ,legal and health consequences of the drug trade and abuse to the many families of workers who are touched indirectly to directly by drug abuse in Australia.
The attempt to eliminate both the supply and the consumption of drugs in our society has failed.The demand for drugs both legal and illegal persists despite all our educational efforts.
Despite extensive enforcement efforts, production, importation and distribution of illicit drugs continues to thrive and the associated crime and inevitable corruption cause great distress and carry great costs to other members of the community.
Many people active in the field would now argue that the current policy which attempts to combat drug dependence solely by application of criminal law and compulsion to abstinence has failed with respect to the great majority of users.
It is clear that we need to review our current approach to drug control in the interests of the overall health of the community not to mention the lives of many young Australians.
While there are many sides to the drug debate it is obvious that the policies of prohibition do not work.We need to explore policies that are based on scientific evidence and approaches that are already proving successful here and overseas.
Some measure of success has already been achieved through the adoption of policies which give priority to harm minimisation.For example needle exchange and distribution programs.Other possible measures include such things as ;
∑ introduction and maintenance of broad based methadone programs for all heroin users who want this type of assistance
∑ expansion of the range and type of rehabilitation programs currently available
∑ increases to national and state funding for institutions that both co-ordinate and conduct scientific research on the drug issue within Australia
∑ development of programs based on self reliance and sound scientific research
Some of these proposals and others such as the controversial injecting rooms will no doubt be confronting to many members of our movement.However if we are to ever address the harm caused to the community we need to start taking some bold inititives.
Labor Council's Drug forum will hopefully assist in moving the drug policy agenda forward..
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005