Australia's drug strategies
Australia's drug strategies have been coordinated through the National
Drug Strategy (NDS) since 1985. Recently, the National Ice Taskforce (NIT), the
government's response to the NIT's final report and the National Ice Action
Strategy (NIAS) have articulated a focus on crystal methamphetamine. This focus
has in turn informed the future direction of the NDS, and in particular the
current NDS for 2017–2026.
This chapter considers the NDS, in conjunction with a brief discussion of
the NIT's final report and the government's subsequent response to it. The chapter
will then examine the NIAS and progress of its implementation since the NIAS was
agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
National Drug Strategy
The NDS has been operating since 1985
as a co-operative strategy between the federal, state and territory governments
and non-government organisations. In recognition of the important relationship
between law enforcement and healthcare providers, the NDS aims to:
...contribute to ensuring safe, healthy and resilient
Australian communities through minimising alcohol, tobacco and other
drug-related health, social and economic harms among individuals, families and
The current iteration of the NDS is the first to have a ten year term,
whereas previous strategies covered a period of five years.
The NDS is built upon a 'three pillars' approach. The three pillars of
the NDS—demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction—are described in
the following paragraphs.
The demand reduction measures are to:
prevent the uptake and/or delay the use of alcohol, tobacco and
reduce the misuse of alcohol and use of tobacco and other drugs
in the community; and
support people to recover from their dependence on alcohol,
tobacco and other drugs, and to reintegrate into the community.
The supply reduction (law enforcement approach) measures aim to:
prevent, stop, disrupt or reduce the production and supply of
illicit drugs to the Australian community; and
control, manage and/or regulate the availability of legal drugs.
The harm reduction measures seek to reduce the adverse health, social
and economic consequences of the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
National Drug Strategy 2017–2026
The NDS for 2017–2026 was endorsed by the newly formed Ministerial Drug
and Alcohol Forum (MDAF) (see paragraphs 3.40 to 3.43) on 29 May 2017
and released on 19 July 2017.
The current iteration of the NDS is the first to have a ten year
It promotes continued co-operation between law enforcement and health services,
people's access to evidence-based, effective and affordable
treatment and support services;
new data collections and sharing of information across
strategies that prevent, delay and reduce the use of alcohol and
other drugs (AOD);
support to communities to identify and respond to alcohol,
tobacco and other drug issues;
the reduction of adverse health, social and economic consequences
of AOD problems by enhancing harm reduction approaches;
the development of responses that restrict and/or regulate the
availability of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs;
national co-operation to identify and address AOD problems
including the sharing of jurisdictional information, innovative approaches and
the development of effective responses.
The NDS 2017–2026 prioritises populations at higher risk of developing
AOD issues, many of which align with the target populations of the NIAS. These
include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; people with co-morbid
mental health conditions; young people; older people; people in contact with
the criminal justice system; culturally and linguistically diverse populations;
and people that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex.
A number of sub-strategies exist under the NDS. These sub-strategies
inform and provide further direction and context on specific AOD issues.
These sub-strategies include:
the National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Peoples Drug Strategy
the National Alcohol and other Drug Workforce Development
National Tobacco Strategy 2012–2018;
the future iteration of the National Alcohol Strategy, penned to
be released later in 2017; and
the National Pharmaceutical Misuse Framework for Action (which
expired in 2015).
The most recent NDS includes a description of the reformed governance
structure of the strategy (a description of the governance structure is at
paragraphs 3.40 to 3.46) and the monitoring and progress reporting.
Monitoring and progress reporting
The NDS 2017–2026 outlines the reporting of NDS activities. Annual
progress reports will be released by the MDAF which will provide information
jurisdictional and national activities;
identify AOD trends; and
emerging issues based on best available data.
The National Drug Strategy Committee (NDSC) will provide a more detailed
progress report to the MDAF, which will subsequently be submitted to COAG every
three years. These detailed reports will be released in conjunction with the
release of findings from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (household
survey) and will be evaluated against key measures of success. These detailed
progress reports will be released in 2018, 2021, 2024 and in 2027.
Finally, the NDSC will also conduct a mid-point review of the NDS in 2021-2022
to determine new priorities, and identify emerging issues and challenges.
Measures of success
The three-year detailed progress reports of the NDS will include new
measures of success that illustrate its progress. The five headline indicators
Increasing the average age of uptake of drugs, by drug type.
This indicator will be informed by the 2016 household survey's baseline data.
This data shows that currently the average age of uptake for illicit drugs is
19.7 years; alcohol is 17.3 years; and smoking is 16.4 years.
Reduction of the recent use of any drug of people living in
households. Again, this measure will be informed by the 2016 household survey
and seeks to see the household use of illicit drugs in the last 12 months reduced
to less than 15.6 per cent; the harmful use of alcohol over a lifetime to less
than 17.1 per cent and in the short time to less than 37.3 per cent;
and the daily use of tobacco
to less than 12.2 per cent.
Reduction in arrestees' illicit drug use in the month before
committing an offence for which they are charged. The 2013–14 baseline data
from the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) will be used to measure
whether detainees who have tested positive for drug use has decreased over
time. As of 2013–14, 73 per cent of detainees who participated in DUMA had
tested positive for drug use.
Reduction in the number of victims of drug-related incidents. This
measure aims to see a reduction in the number of victims
of both illicit drug-related incidents (9.3 per cent) and alcohol-related
incidents (22.2 per cent). This measure will be informed by 2016
Reduction in the drug-related burden of disease, including
mortality. Baseline data from the 2011 Australian Burden of Disease Study
will be used to determine whether the NDS has successfully reduced diseases
caused by illicit drugs (1.8 per cent), alcohol (5.1 per cent) and tobacco (9
In addition to the detailed benchmarks listed above, annual progress
reports will include supplementary indicators to monitor the implementation,
progress and emerging AOD issues. These indicators include:
illicit drugs and precursor chemicals seized;
the availability of illegal drugs, as perceived by people who use
the purity of illegal drugs;
the evaluation data from current policy interventions, programs
Hepatitis C virus and HIV/AIDS incidence;
Opioid pharmacotherapy clients;
drug treatment episodes;
diversion of licit drugs;
coronial data sources;
the Illicit Drug Data Report; and
the Alcohol and other Drug attributable hospital admission and
The committee's view in relation to measuring success, in the context of
law enforcement strategies, is discussed in chapter 5.
Further details relating to the NDS will be discussed in the second
report which align with the NDS's demand reduction and harm reduction pillars.
The National Ice Taskforce's final report and the government response
On 8 April 2015, the Abbott government announced the creation of the NIT.
It was established to provide advice to government on the impacts of crystal methamphetamine
use in the Australian community and assist with the development of the NIAS.
Three experts were appointed to the taskforce:
Mr Ken Lay APM, former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police;
Associate Professor Sally McCarthy, Medical Director of the
Emergency Care Institute, the New South Wales (NSW) Agency for Clinical
Innovation, and a senior emergency physician at the Prince of Wales Hospital in
Professor Richard Murray, Dean of the College of Medicine and
Dentistry at James Cook University.
The NIT was overseen by the Minister for Justice, the Hon. Michael Keenan MP
and then Minister for Rural Health, Senator the Hon. Fiona Nash.
The final report of the NIT was delivered to Prime Minister
Malcolm Turnbull on 9 October 2015 and released publicly on 6
The NIT made 38 recommendations under five priority areas:
support families, communities and frontline workers (eight
target prevention (four recommendations);
tailor services and support (11 recommendations);
strengthen law enforcement (eight recommendations); and
improve governance and build better evidence (seven
In December 2015, the government released a two page response to the
NIT's report. The government's response announced a package addressing the five
priority areas detailed in the NIT's report. A significant part of the package
was the announcement of an additional $285.2 million to fund programs that
would 'reduce the demand for ice and the harm it is causing through the
delivery of locally-based and targeted solutions'.
A further $13 million was also included for the introduction of new
Medicare Benefits Schedule items for Addiction Medicine Specialists.
In total, $298.2 million was allocated over four years from 1 July 2016.
The government response also included:
$24.9 million for family and community support programs, such as
220 new Community Drug Action Teams and online resources for parents, students,
teachers and community organisations;
new targeted communications through the National Drugs Campaign
and enhanced school education programs;
$241.5 million for the delivery of treatment services via the
Primary Health Networks (PHNs), expanding early intervention support through
online counselling and information;
$5 million for the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
(ACIC) to deploy officers abroad and increase co-operation with China;
$10 million to be invested from the proceeds of crime (PoC)
account to develop a National Criminal Intelligence System;
$1 million for the development of a national 'Dob in a Dealer'
$18.8 million for better research, the development of new
guidelines and the improvement of the collection and quality of data.
After the release of the NIT's final report and the government's
response, the Minister for Justice discussed the measures focused on supply
reduction. The minister stated that the NIT's report highlighted the need to
'improve on intelligence collection and to also go after the money'; he
reiterated that the government has achieved this aim by placing ACIC
intelligence officers abroad and through a new national unexplained wealth
The minister's comments also emphasised the need to focus on reducing
demand for crystal methamphetamine:
Law enforcement are doing a magnificent job, but it’s very
clear that whilst we’re doing everything we can on the supply side—and with
seizures up, we’ve had seizures of over $1 billion of this insidious drug. But
it is very clear from the Taskforce report that we need to do more on the
demand side. So whilst we’re tackling supply, if demand still exists at such a
record rate, it’s going to be impossible for law enforcement to retain control
of supply. And, of course, the best thing that we can do to help our law
enforcement agencies is to stop people from using this drug in the first place.
The then Minister for Rural Health announced that any current contracts
with AOD treatment services would be extended to mid-2017 while the sector
transitions to the new PHN-led model. In addition, the minister highlighted
that the government would give specific attention to Indigenous treatment
services and that PHNs would work closely with the Aboriginal community‑controlled
The minister stated that the government was supportive of all 38 of the NIT's
recommendations and would incorporate these into the government's response, and
an agreed response between the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments.
Upon the release of the NIT's report, Mr Lay asserted that law
enforcement will play a very important role in drug policy because of illegal
importations, profits and the international responses required to address the
illicit drug trade. He highlighted, however, that '[p]olice cannot, will not
and will never arrest their way out of this problem. It is far more difficult
He expressed his delight that the government's response to the NIT's report
initiates a 'real shift' to support families, facilitate targeted prevention,
help users and develop research.
Associate Professor McCarthy supported the recommendations and the
government's response because:
...the impact we expect to see is a very broad impact on all
drug use and particularly alcohol which is a great scourge as well and causes a
lot of presentations to emergency departments and dysfunction and adverse
consequences in the community. We expect to see that when we see a crystal
methamphetamine intoxicated person, that there will be much more accessible
intervention available, and hopefully at an earlier phase of their use... we
anticipate the measures taken as a whole will really support the work of
emergency departments, general practitioners, all parts of the health sector,
in being able to identify and intervene earlier.
Associate Professor McCarthy also highlighted the importance of research
to assist the AOD sector with an understanding of what works, what is the most
effective action and whether it is of value.
Dr Nadine Ezard, from Saint Vincent's Hospital added that:
...the idea that we will have a treatment sector that can
detect early, respond early and then refer into treatment rather than just
having some specialised treatment centres scattered around the country, means
that we can build a comprehensive response for early intervention and
At the time of NIT's release, the Minister for Rural Health wrote that
focus on the supply side of the crystal methamphetamine problem would continue,
however '[n]ow it is time to focus on reducing demand' as doing so will 'help
cripple the ice dealer's model by reducing demand for their despicable product'.
If we can reduce the market by helping the biggest clients
give up their habit, demand will drop. If we can educate our children not to
ever try ice, there will be less young people coming into the ice market to
replace those exiting it.
Credible studies suggest improved aftercare -- ongoing
counselling and meetings for recovering addicts who have completed
rehabilitation programmes -- could be an important key to keeping those users
off the drug and out of the drug market.
Of course, different treatment is appropriate for different
people and different levels of addiction, which is why we're having the local
Primary Health Networks decide which method of treatment is best for their area
-- enlisting local knowledge instead of Canberra ivory-tower policy.
The National Ice Action Strategy
Following the release of the NIT and the government's response, the government
published the NIAS. This strategy was agreed by the COAG on 11 December 2015.
The NIAS includes a package encompassing five areas, allocating $298.2 million
in new funding over four years from 1 July 2016. The five targeted areas
of the package are:
local communities and family support programs;
enhanced targeted prevention activities for at risk populations;
investment in further treatment services via the PHNs and in
Addiction Medicine Specialists ($241.5 million);
further investments in law enforcement activities; and
additional funding for research into crystal methamphetamine and
other illicit drugs.
The NIAS identifies its main priority as supporting those families and
communities directly impacted by the harms caused by crystal methamphetamine
use. To achieve this goal, it states that the solution to Australia's crystal
methamphetamine problem is reducing the demand for the drug, by targeting
'prevention efforts towards high-risk populations, increase investment in
treatment with improvements in how treatment programmes are delivered'.
Law enforcement remains a critical element of the strategy, by stopping the
supply of crystal methamphetamine through activities focused on 'increasing the
use of intelligence and international cooperation, as well as directly
targeting organised crime groups and criminal networks'.
Finally, the NIAS highlights the importance of improving the collection
of data and evidence to inform policy responses, as well as requiring regular
reporting to ensure Commonwealth, state and territory governments track the
impact of their efforts.
A principal feature of the NIAS is the allocation of $241.5 million to
PHNs to commission AOD treatment services.
In February 2016, the Department of Health (DoH) announced that there would be
a phased implementation to prepare PHNs for this additional responsibility.
These AOD services will complement the PHNs' role in the coordination of
Commonwealth funded mental health programs at a local level, as well as build
linkages with primary care.
The DoH has developed an AOD treatment program to assist PHNs with the
commissioning process and share evidence on best practice drug and alcohol
Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum
Another key feature of the NIAS is the establishment of the MDAF. The
MDAF brings together ministers from the health and justice portfolios across
jurisdictions to coordinate alcohol and drug policies, and law enforcement
strategies. Its deliberations and recommendations will be reported to COAG. Initially,
the MDAF will 'oversee the development, implementation and monitoring of
Australia's national drug policy framework', including the NIAS and the NDS.
The DoH informed the committee that the MDAF is co-chaired by the
Commonwealth Ministers for Health and Justice. According to the DoH, the
establishment of the MDAF is a consolidation of the governance and ministerial
arrangements around drugs and alcohol; governance had previously been
separately reported through health ministers and justice ministers.
The NIAS establishes a requirement for departments to provide progress reports
on the implementation of the strategy to COAG. COAG will then determine whether
these progress reports are made public.
According to the Attorney-General's Department (AGD), the COAG Health
Council, the COAG Law, Crime and Community Safety Council, and the MDAF all
report to COAG on the NIAS. This approach was implemented because:
Not every issue is relevant for all of us around the table in
health and justice, so hence the three streams—so you have the whole health
stream going up from officials up to ministers, you have the law and justice
stream going from officials up to ministers, you have the combined one in the
centre for the key issues where it is important for health and justice issues
to be considered and then that all reports up to COAG first ministers. So, as I
say, in summary, you have all of the great on-the-ground operational
cooperation—we have heard from our colleagues; it is at an all-time high in
terms of Commonwealth, state and territory cooperation—and then you have this
governance structure that is bringing it up through officials into the
The MDAF has met twice since its establishment, on 16 December 2016 and
29 May 2017. The communiques from these two meetings reference discussions on a
range of matters relating to the NIAS across the health and law enforcement
sectors. A key consideration of the MDAF was the NDS 2016–2025 which was
endorsed by the forum at its second meeting.
Other key developments included:
the progress of the NIAS, including the availability of a new
online education and prevention resource via the Positive Choices portal;
expansion of AOD treatment services through
Online Counselling, funding through the PHNs and increased capacity in
services offered by the states and territories;
introduction of new Medicare items for Addiction Medicine
strengthening efforts to combat serious and organised crime;
improving timeliness and quality of data collections; and
the ongoing development of a national precursor chemical tracking
system (Ne-EUD) and the improvement and harmonisation for precursor chemicals
the establishment of a new National Centre of Clinical Excellence
for Emerging Drugs of Concern, which was anticipated in coming months;
the roll out of Local Drug Action Teams and the Cracks in the
a national phone line to act as a single point of contact for
individuals and families seeking support, information and counselling for
the implementation of a quality framework to provide consistent
and appropriate treatment in accordance with best practice.
The National Drugs Strategy Committee
In addition to the MDAF, there is the NDSC, which reports to the MDAF. The
committee is co-chaired by the Commonwealth DoH and the AGD. The NDSC was
referred the work of the former Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs, which was
abolished by the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council in October 2016.
The NDSC consists of senior officials from across the health, justice
and law enforcement portfolios from each jurisdiction. These officials will
consider alcohol and other drug policies.
An initiative detailed in the NDS 2017–2026 is the NDSC's authority to
establish time limited and expert working groups. These working groups will
undertake work on particular projects and issues, and provide ongoing policy
advice on AOD issues. The membership of these groups will be inclusive of
members from the non-government, research, treatment, intelligence and public
Initial response to the National Ice Taskforce's report and the National
Ice Action Strategy
Overall, the public's initial response to the NIT and the NIAS was
positive. In general, commentators were supportive of the shift in both focus
and funding from a supply reduction approach to treatment services. However,
some commentators were concerned that the NIAS did not provide an adequate
balance between reducing demand and harm minimisation. Others felt that the
harm minimisation approaches advocated by the NIAS will not be sufficient.
Renewed harm minimisation focus
The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) commented that by
'funding treatment as a main focus of the government's response to the issue of
ice there is a much greater likelihood of a reduction in harm associated with
the use of this drug'
For too long
Australia has paid lip-service to harm reduction while focussing most of the
funding and effort on just the supply reduction aspect. This announcement marks
the first steps in a sensible return to re-align funding, focus and efforts
into moving away from a largely prohibitionist approach to the much more
effective approach of harm minimisation.
Mental Health Australia (MHA) welcomed the NIT's report and highlighted
the links between methamphetamine use and mental illness. MHA argued that the
NIT report ensures 'closer integration between the mental health system and the
alcohol and drug treatment systems...[to ensure] a service that is built around
the needs of individuals who require support'.
Professor Margaret Hamilton from the University of Melbourne and
Professor Adrian Dunlop from the University of Newcastle wrote that the
NIT's report provided 'an opportunity for action':
However, many key
issues raised in the report still require adequately resourced strategies; this
applies especially to specific plans for Indigenous communities. Mixed funding
by the federal and state governments makes it challenging to achieve the
necessary coherence of response. The Primary Health Networks will need to
rapidly develop the capacity to engage with GPs, and specialist drug and
alcohol services if they are to play a key role.
Broadly, commentators were supportive of the NIT and the NIAS because they
mark a transition from the previous policy focus on law enforcement initiatives
to a response focused on health initiatives.
Primary Health Networks and service delivery
The PHAA also supported the use of the PHNs to allocate funds for
treatment services because the PHNs 'have the ability to ensure that the
funding is directed appropriately, to deal with overlap of other drug
dependency and to see comorbidities are dealt with in the most effective
The Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association (ATCA) was less
supportive of the announcement that the PHNs would be used to distribute funds
to AOD services. ACTA described the PHNs as 'incredibly patchy' and:
Many are still in a
changeover state from Medicare locals and not properly developed...How are those
resources going to flow through the PHNs when many would not even have
relationships with the community organisations that are doing alcohol and other
Professor Rebecca McKetin, in the Drug and Alcohol Review, wrote
that although there was a warm reception to the NIT's report, many from the
health sector 'were bewildered by the lack of detail or strategy accompanying
the response'. Further, the announcement that the new funding would be
distributed via the PHNs was a cause of angst amongst those in the sector. Professor
McKetin cautioned against the use of the PHNs, noting:
This is an entirely
new and uncharted funding model for the AOD sector in Australia, and a
surprising shift given that the core business of the PHNs is to increase the
efficiency and effectiveness of primary care medical services provided to
patients...they have no significant prior experience providing treatment services
Professor McKetin explained that the government's announcement was
unclear about the 'nature and scope of services' because allocation of funding would
be based on the local needs of each PHNs, and that:
Although this new
model of funding has the potential to provide a more integrated service
platform at a local level, a significant risk lies in what PHNs may not know
about existing AOD treatment infrastructure, including their knowledge about
best practice in the field, evidence-based treatment and the gaps in knowledge
in encouraging better management of patients with substance use problems in
both primary care and specialist AOD services. It may also leave existing
service providers out-of-the-loop and result in sub-optimal assessment and
commissioning of specialised AOD patient care.
Professor McKetin also advised that it was unknown whether funding will
be available to existing specialist non-government AOD treatment services.
Additionally, the breakdown of the amount of funding announced ($241.5 million)
across the 31 PHNs over four years equates to under $2 million per PHN,
Professor McKetin was concerned that:
It is easy to imagine
the Ice Taskforce funding being absorbed in a homogenous model of service
provision, catering to the base common denominator across competing health
priorities, leaving limited scope for funding or providing specialist
non-Government AOD services for either methamphetamine use or for other drug
However, Professor McKetin also remarked that the announcement 'provides
the opportunity to develop new and more flexible models of treatment and
service provisions' that will 'foster a multidisciplinary approach to help
address associated physical, mental and social comorbidities'. For patients, it will
also provide a broader range of services that are better integrated, and
provide continuum of care. Finally, she said the new funding model would
provide individual PHNs the ability to 'commission local services that are most
effective and appropriate given the local context'.
In May 2016, Dr Alex Wodak and Mr Matthew Frei wrote in the Medical
Journal of Australia that the illicit drug market in Australia is
continuing to grow, despite measures being taken by governments to address the
issue. They argued that this situation highlights the disproportionate
allocation of funding to law enforcement measures: approximately two-thirds of
drug-related spending is directed to law enforcement, with only nine per cent
on prevention, 21 per cent on treatment and two per cent on harm
minimisation. Despite this reliance on law enforcement strategies, the authors pointed
out that Australia's illicit drug market continues to expand and:
Not only are illicit drugs easy to
obtain but prices have fallen and many newly identified psychoactive drugs have
appeared, often more dangerous than older drugs. Over recent decades,
drug-related deaths, disease, crime, corruption and violence appear to have
Dr Wodak's and Mr Frei's article discussed key recommendations made by
the NIT, and was generally supportive of its focus on treatment and funding
through the PHNs. However, the authors expressed concerns that these strategies
exist within a drug treatment system that is an 'inflexible, poor quality
system with limited capacity'.
Further, they argued that it is unclear whether the distribution of funds
through PHNs 'will be distributed effectively given the fragmented nature of
the Australian drug treatment systems'.
The authors also questioned the NIT's emphasis on education, arguing the
government and community have unrealistic expectations of drug education's
ability to reduce demand; generally the gains from educations campaigns are
modest or temporary. The authors stated that '[d]rug education must be credible
for the target audience, which is hard to achieve in an environment of drug
Finally, the authors expressed their support for supervised consumption
facilities in areas of high drug consumption to provide information to users
about harm reduction and treatment.
Balance between demand reduction and harm reduction
A more critical response to the National Ice Action Plan (NIAP) was expressed by
Mr Bill O'Loughlin, former Chair of Harm Reduction Victoria. In an opinion
piece, Mr O'Loughlin argued that the NIAP returned Australia to 'an old and
failed drug response' that:
on strategies for preventing people from beginning to use ice and getting users
to stop by providing increased and easier access to treatment. It is the old
mantra: 'Don’t take drugs and, if you do, then stop'.
He wrote that the three pillars of Australia's NDS were ignored, despite
being essential and effective components to Australia's drug policy. Mr
O'Loughlin argued that the NIAP not only ignores harm reduction but that harm
reduction was not a feature in the NIT's community consultations. Additionally,
Mr O'Loughlin felt that the NIT's report:
reinterprets harm reduction by focusing on the harms created by ice and uses
this as evidence for the need for treatment services. This is a serious and
dangerous reinterpretation of government policy, and of what is accepted by
specialists in the field.
Furthermore, Mr O'Loughlin opined that the report does not address the
fact that young people do not communicate with older people or professionals
about their drug use, and only seek support when they are in trouble. In some
circumstances, young people will be 'quietly and furtively using ice and the
report does not give attention to ways to reach them effectively'.
His article drew attention to models that already exist which encourage
conversations between peers who have experience with crystal methamphetamine
use that 'creates a unique space in which people can talk about their drug use
and allows for a conversation that encourages safety and wellbeing'.
Two months after the committee first initiated its inquiry into crystal
methamphetamine in the 44th Parliament, the Commonwealth government
announced the commencement of the NIT. The committee's inquiry was conducted in
parallel with the NIT's inquiry, and for this reason much of the evidence and
issues discussed in the NIT's final report correlate with the evidence received
by the committee. The committee's re-initiated inquiry provided an opportunity
to consider the NIT's report, as well as the government's response to it
through its action plan outlined in the NIAS.
As noted earlier, the NIT and the NIAS appear to mark a substantial
shift in how Australia responds to illicit drugs and the treatment of people
with substance abuse issues. The committee is fully supportive of the 38
recommendations in the NIT's final report and the NIAS. The committee commends
the government's substantial investment of $298.2 million for AOD treatment,
the shift in emphasis to demand reduction strategies and the strengthening of
collaboration between jurisdictions.
Bringing together health and law enforcement ministers and agencies,
through the MDAF, the NDSC and formalised in the NDS 2017–2026, is an important
and vital step in the development of a coherent response to the harms of crystal
methamphetamine use. If crystal methamphetamine use is to be successfully
addressed, health and law enforcement agencies must work in collaboration on
AOD matters. The changes to the governance structure brought about by the
establishment of the MDAF and NDSC reinforce the key message that demand for crystal
methamphetamine and the harm it causes are primarily a health issue. While law
enforcement agencies play a key role in targeting the manufacture, importation
and distribution of illicit drugs, the committee shares the view that this is
not an issue we can arrest our way out of.
The committee supports the announcement in the NDS 2017–2026 that the
MDAF will make its annual progress reports publicly available. However, it is
not clear whether the more detailed, three-year progress reports and the mid-point
review of the NDS will also be made publicly available. The committee supports
the public release of these reports and the mid-term review, and considers this
important so that the efficacy of the NDS, and its sub-strategies, such as the
NIAS, can be fully assessed.
In this report, the committee has assessed a number strategies found in
the NIAS, and for this reason, considers it important to ensure the actions in
the NIAS are properly reported on. For this reason, the committee proposes that
the progress reports include the following items:
updates on the implementation and achievement of actions outlined
in the NIAS, with reference to qualitative and/or quantitative key performance
indicators as appropriate;
identification of legislative changes either made or required to
implement the NIAS;
reporting on steps taken to enhance federal and international 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 (for example, their location and capacity), and cost (to both government
statistics from the justice system, including the number of
crystal methamphetamine prosecutions, convictions and rates of recidivism in
each Australian jurisdiction;
updates on the implementation and efficacy of drug courts and
drug diversionary programs;
updates on local initiatives implemented through the PHNs; and
the quantum of funding derived from PoC and allocated to
initiatives to address crystal methamphetamine use.
The committee believes that the information outlined above must be
considered in conjunction with data on the price, purity, availability and
seizures of crystal methamphetamine. In this regard, the committee acknowledges
the important work of the ACIC and the information presented in its annual
Illicit Drug Data Reports. These reports are a valuable source of law
enforcement data; however, as the ACIC itself noted, law enforcement data
should be read in conjunction with findings from other sources such as DUMA and
The committee notes New Zealand's reporting mechanisms on its cross‑agency
plan of action to tackle the harms caused by methamphetamine and commends this
approach to the MDAF. From 2010 to 2015, the New Zealand Department of the
Prime Minister and Cabinet has reported annually on indicators and progress of
its Tackling methamphetamine: an Action Plan. The New Zealand reporting
arrangements could inform the MDAF and its planned future reporting.
The committee recommends that all progress reports and the mid-point
review provided to the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum and Council of
Australian Governments 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 to:
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 cost (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.
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