Media Releases and Communiques
Licit and Illicit Drug Issues
The Australian and State and Territory Ministers responsible for health, law enforcement and police met in Brisbane today for a meeting of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (MCDS), the peak decision making body on licit and illicit drug issues.
12 November 2004
Joint CommuniqueThe Australian and State and Territory Ministers responsible for health, law enforcement and police met in Brisbane today for a meeting of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (MCDS), the peak decision making body on licit and illicit drug issues.
Co-chaired by Queensland Police Minister, Judy Spence, and Queensland Health Minister, Gordon Nuttall, the Council endorsed a raft of proposals including a radical plan to reduce the prevalence of tobacco consumption in Australia, a proposed new national cannabis strategy and a new alcohol strategy.
Expanded National Tobacco StrategyMinisters endorsed a proposal to further refine the successful National Tobacco Strategy with a suggested public health and legislative framework that aims at significantly improving health and reducing the social cost caused by and the inequity exacerbated by, tobacco in all its forms. The new strategy proposals were developed by a National Expert Advisory Committee on Tobacco through an open process of consultation with key stakeholder groups. The social costs of tobacco use have been estimated at about $21 billion a year, including cost borne by government, businesses and households. The new strategy proposal recommends increased promotion of Quit and smokefree messages, improved services and treatment for smokers, support to parents and educators and more efficient regulation.
Proposed National Cannabis StrategyMinisters agreed to the development of a National Cannabis Strategy in recognition that this is the most widely used illicit drug. In 2001 it was reported that about 2 million Australians had recently used it. Ministers expressed their concern that use of cannabis can result in acute effects and may trigger psychotic illness and schizophrenia.
National Alcohol StrategyMinisters endorsed the need for the development of a National Alcohol Strategy to address the alcohol problem within the Australian community. Ministers took into consideration that the three leading causes of death among youth are all associated with alcohol and that there was a need to prevent this type of alcohol abuse by education youth and parents about responsible drinking consumption. Ministers acknowledged that the early onset of drinking is related to serious lifelong problems and that young people who begin drinking before 15 years of age are at higher risk of developing alcohol dependence and its related health and social problems.
Report on Heroin shortages in AustraliaMinisters welcomed a report – Causes, Course and Consequences of the Heroin Shortage in Australia, prepared by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund – which affirmed the key role of law enforcement in drug supply reduction which is an integral component of a comprehensive policy approach that aims to reduce the demand for drugs as well as the harms that arise from drug use.
Report on Drink SpikingMinisters accepted a report on drink spiking – National Project on Drink Spiking: Investigating the nature and extend of drink spiking in Australia, prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology. Ministers noted that Stage 2 of the National Project on Drink Spiking will develop awareness-raising packages for police, accident and emergency departments, sexual assault counsellors and the liquor industry staff, taking into account the data in the report. The also agreed that the Intergovernmental Council on Drugs would now examine the recommendations in the report and advise the Council at its next meeting of further action required.
Investigation into testing of illicit drugsMinisters expressed concern over proposals to test the safety of illicit drugs, especially those commonly taken by young people at dance parties. Ministers agreed to establish a working group of government officials to work with the Australian National Council on Drugs to develop a national approach to the assessment of illicit drugs in the context of law enforcement, risk and ethical considerations.
Tax deductions by drug dealersMinisters resolved that, while the Australian Government had announced it would amend Commonwealth laws to ensure that drug traffickers could not claim tax deductions, the Chair of the MCDS should write to the Federal Treasurer indicating the Council’s support for this initiative.
Labelling products as alcoholic drinksMinisters agreed to write to the Food Ministers Council requesting changes be made to the Food Standards Code to ensure all alcoholic beverages are clearly labeled as alcoholic drinks and to ensure that the number of standards drinks contained in alcoholic beverages is more prominently marked on containers. Ministers will meet with the liquor industry in relation to this matter.
Media contact: Kay McNiece, Media Liaison, MCDS 0412132585