Conduct of the inquiry
On 18 March 2015, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement
(the committee) initiated an inquiry into crystal methamphetamine (ice), which
lapsed at the end of the 44th Parliament. Submissions had been
received and a number of hearings held at the time the inquiry lapsed.
On 12 October 2016, during the 45th Parliament, the committee
re-instated the inquiry. The committee resolved that documents received in the
44th Parliament, including Hansard transcripts and submissions,
would be considered in respect of the re-instated inquiry. The committee also
accepted additional submissions.
The terms of reference for the inquiry were as follows:
Pursuant to the committee's functions set out in paragraph
7(1)(g) of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Act 2010, the
committee will examine the criminal activities, practices and methods involved
in the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of methamphetamine and
its chemical precursors, including crystal methamphetamine (ice) and its impact
on Australian society.
In particular, the committee will examine:
role of Commonwealth law enforcement agencies in responding to the importation,
manufacture, distribution and use of methamphetamine and its chemical
adequacy of Commonwealth law enforcement resources for the detection,
investigation and prosecution of criminal activities involving the importation,
manufacture, distribution and use of methamphetamine and its chemical
effectiveness of collaborative arrangements for Commonwealth law enforcement
agencies with their regional and international counterparts to minimise the
impact of methamphetamine on Australian society;
involvement of organised crime including international organised crime and
outlaw motorcycle gangs in methamphetamine related criminal activities;
nature, prevalence and culture of methamphetamine use in Australia, including
in indigenous, regional and non-English speaking communities;
to reduce the high demand for methamphetamines in Australia; and
On 6 September 2017, the committee tabled its first report. That report
primarily considered law enforcement responses to the crystal methamphetamine
problem in Australia. It also detailed background information on crystal
methamphetamine and its use in Australia, and Australia's drug strategies. The
committee made eight recommendations:
progress reports and the mid-point review provided to the Ministerial Drug and
Alcohol Forum and Council of Australian Government on the implementation of the
National Drug Strategy 2017–2026 and its sub-strategy, the National Ice Action
Strategy (NIAS), are made publicly available, and include but are not limited
- reporting on the implementation and achievement of actions
outlined in the NIAS, with reference to qualitative and/or quantitative key
performance indicators as appropriate;
- reporting on steps taken to enhance co-operation between health
and law enforcement agencies;
- data on the prevalence of crystal methamphetamine use,
particularly among vulnerable groups;
- information on new and existing treatment options, their
accessibility and costs (to both government and patients);
statistics from the justice system, including the number of
crystal methamphetamine prosecutions, convictions and rates of recidivism in
each Australian jurisdiction;
- reporting on the implementation and efficacy of drug courts and
drug diversionary programs;
- reporting on local initiatives implemented through the Primary
Health Networks; and
- the quantum of funding derived from proceeds of crime and
allocated to initiatives to address crystal methamphetamine use.
state and territory governments commit long term funding for the
implementation, maintenance and ongoing use of the National Criminal
Intelligence System (NCIS).
state and territory governments, as a matter of urgency, agree and enact
nationally consistent unexplained wealth legislation.
to a national review of drug diversionary programs articulated by the National
Ice Taskforce (NIT) and in the NIAS, states and territories commit to
improving, expanding, or where no drug diversionary program(s) currently
exists, implementing such programs across their jurisdictions.
governments implement the electronic End User Declaration System as soon as
Commonwealth government strengthens eligibility criteria for Aviation Security
Identification Cards (ASIC) and Maritime Security Identification Cards (MSIC)
to address current inadequacies, particularly the use of criminal intelligence
where a person may have links with serious and organise crime.
Australian government expand its leadership in relevant international fora and
- strengthening ties with countries in the Asia Pacific,
beyond existing ties with China, Cambodia and Thailand;
- collaborating to develop regional law enforcement and health
and welfare responses to crystal methamphetamine;
- sharing its practices with a particular focus on demand
reduction and harm reduction; and
- enhancing co-operation with the United Nations Office on
Drugs and Crime (UNODC). And,
law enforcement agencies, in addition to the number and volume of drug
seizures, assess and report on the availability, purity and price of illicit
drugs, particularly at the street level, to better determine the impact of law
enforcement and other strategies on the illicit drug market.
As at 26 March 2018, the Commonwealth government had not responded to
the committee's first tranche of recommendations.
Lists of submitters, additional documents, answers to questions on
notice and the details of public hearings can be found in the opening chapter
and appendices of the first report.
This second report should be considered alongside the committee's first
report, in particular, chapter 2 (the overview of crystal methamphetamine and
its use in Australia) and chapter 3 (Australia's drug strategies). As per the
definitions provided in the first report, this second report refers to crystal
methamphetamine, methamphetamine or amphetamine, as appropriate, unless
directly quoting evidence where another name for the drug was used.
The purpose of this second report is to examine treatment and harm
reduction measures that are in place in Australia to assist crystal
methamphetamine users, their families and communities. This report also
considers the funding of treatment services as part of the NIAS and the
decriminalisation of illicit drugs, drawing from the committee's visit to Portugal.
Although many of the issues outlined in this second report are outside
the committee's core law enforcement focus, the evidence before the committee
reveals a consistent message articulated by alcohol and other drug (AOD)
experts, governments, the NIT and law enforcement agencies, that is: a person's
drug use is a health issue and for this reason, Australian governments and law
enforcement agencies cannot arrest their way out of it.
That said, many submitters and witnesses acknowledged the important role
of law enforcement agencies, for example in targeting serious and organised
crime groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs, which are primarily responsible for
the importation and distribution of illicit drugs, including crystal
methamphetamine. However, many submitters and witnesses questioned the effectiveness
of law enforcement responses as a means of addressing problematic drug use
and the possession of small quantities of illicit drugs. This report outlines
evidence that argues that treatment and harm reduction measures, not law
enforcement, are more appropriate responses.
While numerous submitters and witnesses argued that treatment and harm
reduction measures play an essential role in assisting individuals with
problematic drug use, historically law enforcement, or supply reduction
policies, have received the majority of AOD funding in Australia. Chapter 5 of
this report considers the three pillars of Australia's National Drug Strategy
(NDS) and calls for the rebalancing of funding across these three pillars:
supply, demand and harm reduction measures. It also considers AOD funding more
broadly, AOD funding announced as part of the NIAS and the use of the
confiscated assets to resource AOD treatment services.
The report concludes with discussion of the committee's visit to
Portugal and consideration of Portugal's response to problematic drug use:
decriminalisation. Although decriminalisation exists in many different policy contexts
in numerous countries (including Australia), evidence to the committee frequently
identified Portugal's decriminalised drug policy as a model of best-practice.
This report concludes with the committee's consideration of decriminalisation
within the Australian context.
Update on methamphetamine use in Australia
As already noted, the committee considered methamphetamine use in
Australia in its first report. Since the committee's first report was
published, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) released preliminary
findings for the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS). The IDRS is a national illicit drug reporting system to identify illicit drug
trends in Australia. The preliminary findings will inform the final figures for
2017, which are due to be released in early 2018.
Patterns of methamphetamine use show that: 71 per cent of participants
had reported use of methamphetamine (in any form) in 2017, a decline when
compared to 2016 (75 per cent). The NDARC reported that this decline is largely
due to a decrease in the use of crystal methamphetamine (68 per cent in 2017
compared to 73 per cent in 2016). The results show, however, that frequency of
methamphetamine use remained stable, with 61 per cent of participants reporting
'weekly or more often' use (59 per cent in 2016).
There was a decline in the number participants that reported crystal
methamphetamine's purity as high (30 per cent in 2017 compared to 37 per cent
in 2016); however, no decline was seen in the median price per point (the
median national price remained at $50 for all forms of methamphetamine). Participants described the availability of methamphetamine (all forms) as
'easy' or 'very easy' to obtain, consistent with 2016 findings.
Across all drug types, cannabis remained the drug most commonly used on
a regular (weekly and daily) basis. Heroin was the next most frequently used
drug and the most commonly nominated drug of choice. Thirty-two per cent of
participants reported methamphetamine as their drug of choice.
The NDARC's Senior Drug and Alcohol Drug Research Officer,
Ms Amanda Roxburgh, told the national broadcaster, the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), that these findings show that many at-risk
methamphetamine users are not seeking treatment services and that:
...one of the big things is stigma, methamphetamine and
particularly crystal methamphetamine is highly stigmatised in [Australia]. It
means people aren't likely to come talk about their crystal methamphetamine
use. We really do need to get people in; it's been relatively low across
The issue of stigma is considered in chapter 4 of this report.
National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program
In November 2017, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)
released its third report as part of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring
Program (wastewater program). The third report found that methamphetamine
remained the most prevalent illicit drug tested as part of the wastewater program, for both capital and regional testing sites.
South Australia recorded the highest level for a capital city, and Western
Australia recorded the highest level for a regional site. The ACIC found:
Comparing the latest findings of drug use with previous data
for sites in Queensland and Western Australia, current methylamphetamine levels
have shown an overall decline since historical highs in October 2016. The South
Australian level also showed a decline during the past year, except for the August
2017 collection when levels returned to previous highs. Methylamphetamine
levels in Victoria remained steady.
International Engagement Methamphetamine Disruption Strategy
On 19 September 2017, the Commonwealth Law Enforcement International
Engagement Methamphetamine Disruption Strategy (international methamphetamine
strategy) was launched. The purpose of this strategy is to enhance the
relationships and co-operation between domestic and international partners,
with a primary aim of 'disrupting the supply and demand of methamphetamine and
its precursors in Australia'.
Participating agencies will facilitate the international methamphetamine strategy by:
- better understanding the international methamphetamine
- enhancing co-operation between law enforcement and border
- providing targeted capacity building and capability development;
maximising advocacy and political engagement with international
Structure of the report
This report considers the following issues in five chapters.
Chapter 2 considers treatment options and access to treatment for AOD use.
It provides an update on the NIAS, followed by a brief overview of Australia's treatment
profile for amphetamine in 2015–16. This is followed by a discussion of some
key issues, including:
waiting lists for AOD treatment services;
- residential treatment services, including demand for and
availability of such facilities;
- private treatment facilities and the need for a national quality
- mandatory residential treatment; and
methamphetamine use and treatment in Australia's correctional
The chapter concludes with an update on pharmacotherapy treatment of
Chapter 3 examines additional issues for two of Australia's at-risk communities:
rural and remote communities and Indigenous Australians. The chapter also
considers support and treatment services for families with children, followed by
consideration of initiatives to address methamphetamine use in at-risk
Chapter 4 considers harm reduction initiatives together with further
commentary on rebalancing Australia's drug harm minimisation policy. This
chapter also looks at the stigmatisation of drug users in the media and calls
for the establishment of national guidelines for press reporting on AOD issues.
It also discusses education initiatives to improve the public's understanding
of crystal methamphetamine and other drugs; needle and syringe programs; and safe
injecting rooms. The chapter concludes with consideration of harm reduction
measures in the context of the darknet.
Chapter 5 first considers the NDS and the prioritisation and funding
across the three pillars of the NDS (demand, supply and harm reduction
strategies). It then considers the funding of AOD services as part of the NIAS,
- the rollout and distribution of funding to the Public Health
- the allocation of funding;
- the allocation of NIAS funding to regions with more problematic
crystal methamphetamine use;
- the timing of and timeframe for AOD service providers to tender
for NIAS funding;
- delays in the distribution of NIAS funding; and
- concerns about the transparency of NIAS funding.
Finally, chapter 5 considers use of the Proceeds of Crime Act
2002 Confiscated Assets Account (CAA), and the distribution of funding from
the CAA to law enforcement and AOD treatment services.
Chapter 6 considers decriminalisation, the committee's visit to Portugal
and the appropriateness of decriminalisation in the Australian context.