Law enforcement strategies to address crystal methamphetamine
As discussed elsewhere in this report, the National Ice Action Strategy
(NIAS) outlines a number of key strategies agreed to by Commonwealth, state and
territory governments to combat crystal methamphetamine use in Australia. This
chapter discusses a range of law enforcement strategies included in the National
Ice Taskforce's (NIT) final report and under the NIAS, as well as some
suggested in evidence to the committee. Collectively, these strategies propose a
law enforcement approach to crystal methamphetamine both domestically and in
the Asia Pacific region.
Specifically, this chapter considers:
the National Criminal Intelligence System (NCIS);
a nationally consistent unexplained wealth regime;
the Swift, Certain and Fair Sanctions model, as trialled in the
Northern Territory (NT);
a national review of drug diversion programs and the need for
interjurisdictional consistency; and
control and monitoring of precursor chemicals and the development
of an electronic end user system;
eligibility criteria of the aviation and maritime security
identification cards; and
co-operation with international partners to disrupt the supply of
Finally, the chapter gives consideration to the limitations of law
enforcement strategies in combatting crystal methamphetamine use, given its
complex health and social elements.
National Criminal Intelligence System
Since 30 June 2015, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)
has been piloting a National Criminal Intelligence System (NCIS). The pilot
program received $9.8 million in funding under the Proceeds of Crime Act
2002 (Proceeds of Crime Act). The aim of the NCIS is to:
...strengthen criminal information and intelligence sharing
across law enforcement agencies, jurisdictions and the criminal intelligence
community. As well as connecting the existing data holdings and making
searching across these highly efficient, NCIS will also offer enhanced
analytical and collaboration services. By improving information sharing and
system agility, police and national security agencies will have an enhanced
ability to detect and disrupt criminal activity.
There has been consistent and ongoing support for a NCIS. Commonwealth,
state and territory governments first agreed to develop a NCIS as part of the
National Organised Crime Response Plan 2015–18.
The development of a national information sharing system for law enforcement
agencies was also recommended by the NIT.
The NIT's final report identified the need to strengthen information
infrastructure between law enforcement agencies across jurisdictions. The NIT
subsequently endorsed the ACIC's NCIS. Recommendation 25 for the final report
The Commonwealth Government should establish a new national
platform for criminal intelligence to improve the existing information sharing
infrastructure. This will enable greater national collaboration to proactively
tackle organised crime in Australia, informed by findings of the current programme
by the [Australian Crime Commission (ACC)].
Further support was confirmed in the NIAS, which promises to '[d]evelop
a pilot infrastructure platform to inform the design and development of a
The Attorney-General's Department (AGD) explained that the ACIC and
16 partner agencies developed the NCIS as a:
...federated platform which exposes information and criminal
intelligence to relevantly authorised staff. The NCIS pilot simultaneously by
separate jurisdictions, ensuring that such investigations are connected, coordinated
and fully resourced.
The AGD concluded that the NCIS will be a powerful tool to combat
sophisticated drug supply syndicates that operate across national and
The committee was updated on the status of the program during its
questioning of the 2015–16 ACIC's annual report. The ACIC reported the project
was conducted in collaboration with 15 partner agencies and over 400 users. It
has 'consolidated over 100 million records, including 30 million records from
400 different data sources' and:
...will exponentially improve the way criminal intelligence and
information is shared and used across the country, meaning the right people
will have the right information sets at the right time, when they need them,
and this will greatly improve Australia's national capabilities to prevent,
detect and disrupt threats, particularly those of serious and organised crime
and, indeed, matters of national security such as terrorism.
The committee was informed that the pilot program would end in July
2017, to be followed by an evaluation of the project.
The ACIC estimated that the NCIS, if approved, will cost $200 million. The
ACIC's board has committed, subject to the evaluation, $50 million in funding.
The remaining $150 million would need to be sought elsewhere.
The value of enhanced co-operation and information sharing between law
enforcement agencies is vital to Australia's ability to combat the trade in
illicit drugs. The NCIS will assist law enforcement agencies, in all Australian
jurisdictions, to share intelligence and further disrupt the activities of
serious and organised crime groups, including outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs).
The committee is supportive of the permanent establishment of the NCIS
at the conclusion of the pilot, taking into account the outcome of the evaluation
and any recommendations therein. To ensure the implementation and continuity of
the NCIS after the conclusion of the trial, the committee recommends that Commonwealth,
state and territory governments commit to long-term funding for it.
The committee recommends that Commonwealth, state and territory
governments commit long term funding for the implementation, maintenance and
ongoing use of the National Criminal Intelligence System.
Nationally consistent unexplained wealth regime
An unexplained wealth regime is a law enforcement strategy that targets
and restrains or confiscates money and other assets derived from criminal
activities. These laws require suspected criminals to prove to a court how they
'acquired their assets, rather than law enforcement needing to prove the assets
were linked to a particular crime'.
These laws are primarily targeted at senior organised crime figures.
According to a paper released by the Australian Institute of Criminology
(AIC) in December 2016, unexplained wealth laws are a new approach to
confiscating proceeds of crime by securing assets that cannot be recovered
through conventional conviction-based legislative means. These unexplained
wealth mechanisms do not require the state to prove the owner of the assets had
committed a crime; instead, the burden of proof is on the property owner to
provide evidence that the asset was acquired legitimately.
Western Australia (WA) was the first state to implement an unexplained
wealth law. By 2014, all Australian jurisdictions, with the exception of the
Australian Capital Territory, had developed their own unexplained wealth laws.
The Commonwealth's unexplained wealth laws were enacted by the Crimes
Legislation Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill 2010 that amended the Proceeds
of Crime Act.
The legislation places the onus of proof on the respondent, who must 'prove, on
the balance of probabilities that their wealth was not derived from one or more
offences linked to a Commonwealth head of power'.
A short description of each state and territory unexplained wealth regime
is detailed below.
WA's unexplained wealth legislation is enacted under the Criminal
Property Confiscation Act 2000 (WA) (CPCA Act). The powers in the CPCA Act
allow the state to have all assets of a convicted drug trafficker seized,
regardless of whether they have been lawfully obtained. For an unexplained wealth
declaration to proceed, a court must determine whether a 'person's total wealth
is greater than the value of their lawfully acquired wealth. It is not
necessary to demonstrate reasonable grounds to suspect that the person
committed an offence to apply for an unexplained wealth declaration'.
WA has a specialised investigative proceeds of crime squad to target
assets connected with illegal activity.
Queensland's unexplained wealth laws are established under the Criminal
Proceeds Confiscation (Unexplained Wealth and Serious Drug Offender
Confiscation Order) Act 2013 (Qld). In this system, a court must
determine whether there is reasonable suspicion that an individual has: engaged
in serious criminal activity; acquired property that has derived from criminal
activities; or that their current or previous wealth was acquired unlawfully.
Unexplained wealth law in South Australia (SA) is enacted by the Serious
and Organised Crime (Unexplained Wealth) Act 2009 (SA). The Supreme Court
of South Australia may authorise an unexplained wealth order if it 'reasonably
suspects that a person or an incorporated body has unlawfully acquired wealth'
with no requirement to show reasonable grounds to suspect that person has committed
The NT has an assets confiscation and forfeiture regime established
under the Criminal Property Forfeiture Act 2002 (NT) (CPF Act). Similar
to the WA provisions, there is no requirement on police to show reasonable grounds
for suspecting a person has committed an offence. The NT's legislation has
meant a judge has minimal discretion when making an unexplained wealth
declaration. If authorised, the onus of proof is on the respondent, and the
person's wealth is presumed to have been unlawfully obtained unless proven
otherwise. According to the AIC's report, the CPF Act has successfully obtained
approximately $3.5 million, including one settlement of $968 000.
New South Wales
The New South Wales (NSW) unexplained wealth powers are found in the Criminal
Assets Recovery Act 1990 (NSW). The AIC's analysis indicates the NSW scheme
has been quite successful and equates its success with the powers being
administered by the NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC), which has specialist
financial investigators. The approach of the NSWCC is different to other
jurisdictions because it treats an unexplained wealth matter as a 'financial
investigation that can lead to and support legal proceedings, rather than legal
proceedings with a financial aspect'.
The AIC reported that more than 95 per cent of unexplained wealth
matters are finalised through a negotiated settlement, rather than through a
trial. Recent successes include approximately $1.25 million recovered in 2013,
and $1.225 million in 2014. Many cases that begin as unexplained wealth
proceedings are finalised using other asset confiscation orders.
Tasmania's unexplained wealth law is modelled upon the NT's legislation.
The Crime (Confiscation of Profits) Amendment (Unexplained Wealth) Act 2013 (Tas)
allows the Supreme Court to make unexplained wealth declarations, which
empowers the state to confiscate unexplained wealth, to investigate, conduct
examinations and restrain property.
Victoria's unexplained wealth legislation is the Confiscation Act
1997 (Vic). The legislation empowers the Victorian Director of Public
Prosecutions to seek an order to have property restrained if there is a
reasonable ground that a 'person with an interest in the property has engaged
in serious criminal activity'.
unexplained wealth legislation
A Criminology Research Advisory Council paper authored by Mr Marcus Smith
and Mr Russell Smith from December 2016 reviewed the success of Australia's
unexplained wealth legislation. They reported
approximately $9 million had been restrained through unexplained wealth regimes,
and a further $32.3 million through drug-trafficker declaration procedures. The
report stated there had been no proceedings, orders or settlements under the Commonwealth,
Victorian and Tasmania unexplained wealth regimes during the period of review.
Barriers to a national
unexplained wealth regime
The AIC's report from December 2016 identified a number barriers to the
development of a national unexplained wealth regime. These include:
political issues associated with states and the NT ceding power
to the Commonwealth;
a lack of consolidation between stakeholders;
the ineffectiveness of current Commonwealth legislation;
uncertainty about the practical benefits of the approach; and
uncertainty about how the proceeds of crime would be shared
between the Commonwealth, states and territories.
During the course of the inquiry, some submitters and witnesses argued
that a nationally consistent unexplained wealth regime is vital. For example,
former Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner, Mr Michael Palmer,
identified the need to target those profiting from illicit drugs at the top,
rather than targeting 'low‑hanging fruit'.
To achieve this goal, Mr Palmer supported:
...stronger and more nationally consistent and cohesive
unexplained wealth laws that would allow us to seize, freeze and confiscate
unexplained wealth from people without the need for a link to a criminal
conviction or a predicate offence.
Failure to improve the current legislation means police:
...do not get the people—many of whom are well known to
police—living in very palatial homes, driving very palatial cars, with yachts
moored at their bayside moorings. We do not get near them because they go
nowhere near the commission of the offence. You do that and you do exactly what
they did in the 1920s with Al Capone. You take away these people who are in the
business for profit and the influence and power the profit gives them. You take
away the profit. You increase the risk their operation poses to them and their
wealth and they think about doing other business. I think that has a real
chance of making a difference.
Former NSW Police Commissioner, Mr Ken Moroney, and Mr Palmer
during his time as AFP Commissioner, conducted a review of unexplained wealth
legislation for the Commonwealth's Justice Minister in 2013.
Mr Palmer informed the committee that this report recommended a national
seminar to look at ways to achieve a nationally consistent strategy.
He also noted that:
It was supported by all the jurisdictions, albeit with some
discussion about how you would share the recovery of assets and who would
control the agenda, if you like. There was some concern in a couple of the
states about whether you could trust the Commonwealth not to take over and
whether they would be prepared to refer powers to the Commonwealth to allow
them to achieve what they would like to achieve in an ideal world. There was very
strong support for it. I think it is critical to increasing our effectiveness.
But even without that, a referral to the Commonwealth of the
power to oversight state offences, as opposed to just Commonwealth offences,
would cure a lot of the problems. I do not know how far those recommendations
have gone. To my knowledge they were quite strongly endorsed by most of the
police ministers around the country as well as by the federal minister at the
time. I have no feedback. My strong advice would be that, to the extent that
they have not been enacted or further considered, it would be very valuable to
Mr Palmer also explained difficulties encountered by Australian law
enforcement agencies when seeking to 'follow the dollar' overseas:
...chasing assets offshore is not easy and, as you know, we
need the cooperation and goodwill of other countries. There are a number of
recommendations that focus on precisely that. Some things are happening at the
moment through [the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)]
and the [ACC] to strengthen those relationships and give ourselves better
opportunities to chase assets. That has become much more important because,
among other people, I know outlaw motorcycle gangsters are quite deliberately offshoring
their assets—they are doing things like buying pubs and casinos, perhaps joss
houses and the like in South-East Asia, where they believe the assets cannot be
touched, cannot be frozen or seized, regained or regathered, by us. I think we
can do better. Internationality of any movement, business or crime, creates
problems for us. The legislation was not ever aimed at dealing with that, so it
will always be a challenge. But I think there is more we can do, and there are
some recommendations that focus on it.
State police agencies expressed support for strong unexplained wealth
legislation. SA Police argued it was critical to develop standardised
unexplained wealth legislation across the country:
Because all too often we deal in points where a part of it
was committed in New South Wales, a part of it is here and all the rest of it.
That complicates matters considerably. We look very closely at that legislation
now. When we do apprehend offenders, particularly at the higher end of the
organisation, we think very carefully about under what legislation they are
going to be charged because more often than not, there will be a federal aspect
to their behaviour. The money laundering legislation from a federal perspective
is better than our state legislation.
The NSW Police Force noted more could be done in terms of a nationally
consistent unexplained wealth regime and asset seizures.
Victoria Police argued that legislation 'regulating unexplained wealth should
be harmonised and uniformly enacted across all jurisdiction in Australia' and
should include the seizure of 'crypto‑currencies used in connection with
online trafficking'. Further:
Currently, large scale trafficking and asset seizures are
difficult to coordinate when the offence does not fall under Commonwealth
legislation. This complexity fosters an enabling environment for the national
and international movement of illicit drugs. There are recent efforts to allow
the Commonwealth access to state-based legislation when dealing with the
confiscation of criminal proceeds which will significantly improve this.
Victoria Police is supportive of this proposal and is working with a national
workgroup to implement this change. Through the creation of nationally
consistent schemes relating to unexplained wealth and asset seizure,
multi-agency taskforces would be better positioned to secure the assets of
offenders operating in these circumstances.
In its final report, the NIT expressed support for a nationally
consistent regime, noting that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
Law, Crime and Community Safety Council had been considering a national scheme.
The NIAS correspondingly reports that COAG would develop 'a national
cooperative scheme to target the unexplained wealth of people involved in
serious and organised crime'.
At a public hearing, the AGD provided the following update on the status
of negotiations to establish a nationally consistent unexplained wealth regime:
At a Commonwealth, state and territory ministerial level
there have been a lot of discussions about this. Where we are up to at the
moment is that we have a number of participating jurisdictions. New South
Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory are
working with us. That COAG law meeting—I was talking about the COAG Law, Crime
and Community Safety Council—has looked at a whole lot of details on this. Now,
where we are up to is that New South Wales is taking the lead on drafting some
model legislation. So it is moving ahead, but, as you would understand, bringing
together all of these very complicated laws is taking some time. But we are
making some good progress, because it is such an important initiative.
A cooperative part of it is that the states would actually do
a referral of powers to the Commonwealth. So you can see that there is a
limited referral of powers so that we can make this cooperative scheme work.
This committee has an ongoing interest in the effectiveness of
unexplained wealth legislation and the development of a nationally consistent regime.
In 2012, the committee recommended that the Commonwealth government develop a
'nationally consistent unexplained wealth regime' and that the states and
territories should refer their powers to the Commonwealth 'for the purpose of
legislation for a national unexplained wealth scheme, where unexplained wealth
provisions are not limited by having to prove a predicate offence'.
Evidence presented during the course of this inquiry indicates that the
absence of a nationally consistent unexplained wealth regime continues to be a
hindrance to law enforcement agencies and hampers their efforts to target, in
particular, the upper echelons of serious and organised crime groups.
The committee is pleased to hear that a nationally consistent
unexplained wealth regime is currently the subject of negotiation by COAG and
that work has progressed as far as the preparation of draft model legislation.
The committee is very supportive of this work and urges all Australian governments
to participate in and commit to it. The committee would welcome prompt
resolution of this matter and therefore recommends that Australian governments,
as a matter of urgency, formally agree and enact nationally consistent
unexplained wealth legislation.
The committee recommends that Commonwealth, state and territory
governments, as a matter of urgency, agree and enact nationally consistent
unexplained wealth legislation.
Swift, Certain and Fair Sanctions
Both the NIT and NIAS support the development of a pilot Swift, Certain
and Fair Sanctions model (SWIFT model). The NIAS reported that this pilot SWIFT
model would be trialled in the NT (the COMMIT program).
The model originates from Hawaii, the United States of America (USA) and is
known as Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE). As of January
2015, this model had been implemented in 21 states across the USA. An
evaluation of HOPE after one year indicated that probationers in the program
55 per cent less likely to be arrested for a new crime;
72 per cent less likely to use drugs;
61 per cent less likely to skip appointments with their
supervisory officer; and
53 per cent less likely to have their probation revoked.
Associate Professor Peter Miller, an advocate for the SWIFT model, gave
evidence that suggested those in the program had larger reductions in positive
drug tests, missed fewer appointments, and were less likely to be arrested in
the three, six and 12 months after the program, compared with those on regular probation.
Professor Miller argued:
With a growing prison population in Australia, as well as an
increase in those people seeking treatment for methamphetamine use in prisons,
it is important that this issue is addressed. HOPE provides the opportunity for
those who use crystal methamphetamine to take responsibility for their drug
use, and demonstrate they are capable of managing their substance use problem
in the community. Not only will this result in a reduction of resources being
spent on placing crystal methamphetamine using offenders in prison, but it also
allows people to maintain employment, housing, and their support network, which
may in turn result in a drug-free and crime-free lifestyle.
Professor Ann Roche from Flinders University commented on the high rates
of methamphetamine use in Hawaii and for that reason it:
...introduced and evaluated, very successfully, a program where
parolees, after having been charged and gone through the criminal justice
system for a methamphetamine related offence, have now introduced an
alternative way of supporting and managing parolees so that they get really
intensive monitoring and care. That is showing exceptionally positive results...So
there are some success stories through the criminal justice system.
Despite its reported success, questions remain about the effectiveness
of the program outside of the one year mark, in particular after probationers
are released from supervision.
A follow-up evaluation paper on HOPE
from 17 May 2016 reported that HOPE probationers performed better
than those under routine supervision, and were half as likely as control
subjects to have a new drug charge during the follow up period.
In August 2015, the former Attorney-General of the NT, Mr John Elferink,
called for the implementation of the SWIFT model in the NT. The founder of the
model, Judge Steven Alm, visited the territory to assist with the NT
government's consideration of the plan. Judge Alm reportedly expressed confidence
that the program would work in the NT, despite its difference to the criminal
profile of the USA. He argued that '[h]uman nature being what is, we think this
can work anywhere'.
The AGD informed the committee that the Commonwealth government is not
currently providing support to the NT government to develop and implement the
Given the evidence presented to the committee during the course of this
inquiry that crystal methamphetamine use in Australia is not a problem that has
to date nor will in the future be solved simply by traditional law enforcement
measures, the committee is supportive of more novel approaches such as the HOPE
While the HOPE program has only been underway for a relatively short
period of time in the USA, the results thus far seem positive. The committee
sees value in similar programs being developed and implemented in Australia,
and welcomes the NT's commitment to trial the HOPE program 'to increase
offenders' ability and motivation to participate in behavioural change
The committee emphasises the importance of pilot programs such as that
announced by the NT government being critically reviewed so that their success
and possible implementation in other Australia jurisdictions can be assessed.
To that end, the committee encourages the NT government to conduct a review at
the conclusion of its HOPE trial, including feedback from the justice system,
alcohol and other drug health, support and treatment services, law enforcement
agencies, and academics. The committee is also of the view that, in order to
meaningfully inform other jurisdictions, the results of that review should be
made publicly available.
National review of drug diversionary programs
Drug diversionary programs divert perpetrators of minor illicit drug-related
crimes to treatment programs, rather than the justice system. These programs
are run by the states and territories and vary across Australian jurisdictions.
According to the NIT:
Diversion programmes work to break the cycle of offending by
diverting offenders away from the criminal justice system towards appropriate
drug-based assessment, education and treatment services. These programmes were
once seen as controversial, but are increasingly seen as a pragmatic response,
and have become one of the most used policy interventions in Australia.
A number of submitters and witnesses spoke of the benefits of drug
diversionary programs. Tasmania Police outlined the program in Tasmania, which
includes an inter-agency drug committee, and spoke highly of it. From the
perspective of Tasmania Police:
...our policy is that the users that meet certain criteria, we
divert them from the justice system. We are not interested in low-level users
being entered into the justice system. As an organisation, we focus on
traffickers and suppliers, not on users. Obviously, as part of our operations,
we come across users on a regular basis, and our objective there is to divert
those to health facilities or health professionals for assistance in drug
WA Police shared a similar view:
...we do not go out of our way to target drug users. We target
drug suppliers. Where we are charging people with simple possession and not
going to diversionary programs, that is usually part of another action—that is,
we stop a vehicle and they just happen to have drugs et cetera. We execute
search warrants, and there will be a number of people within a house. You will
have a supplier and the users. We do not go out of our way to target drug users
as such. We are focused primarily on drug suppliers and traffickers.
The NSW Police Force remarked on the success of the Magistrates Early
Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) program and argued that the program could be
used more frequently in relation to crystal methamphetamine users:
...another scheme introduced at the same time  has not
been utilised enough, in my view, particularly now with the emerging presence
of ice...this scheme is MERIT—the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment
program. It is designed for offenders with drug problems who are eligible for
bail and may benefit from treatment and rehabilitation. This diversion option
is now being championed by a number of my sergeants at Cabramatta, and to date
we have had 38 referrals for the year. Two of those involved ice users.
Although one of these referrals was not successful, as the
male ice user reoffended within weeks of commencing the program, I can provide
the committee with some detail of what I consider a relative success story to
date. This girl is 19 years of age, from Cabramatta, and she was arrested
during a drug operation in February of this year. At the time she was in
possession of 0.19 grams of ice. She was employed in working in the food
industry. She admitted to using between $150 to $200 of ice per week. She had
no priors and had not been known to police prior her arrest. She accepted a
merit referral and commenced treatment. She was later convicted at court and
placed on a good behaviour bond, and part of that bond was that she continued
the drug counselling.
At this stage she has had no further involvement or charges
since that particular date. She has a hope of full recovery. The Cabramatta
Local Area Command, and obviously with myself, will continue to use the program
as its primary diversion strategy for detected meth or ice users. I intend to
expand the opportunities to engage persons detected with meth and ice into the
future, but not just by engaging these persons during proactive operations.
Mr Mick Palmer, former AFP Commissioner, echoed law enforcement
agencies' support for drug diversionary programs and highlighted that
imprisonment does little to resolve an offender's drug use and generally
worsens their future prospects upon release:
Some of the drug court diversionary initiatives are still
working quite well. It gives us a much better chance of reducing the
reoffending ratio...Of course, one of the
problems with simply arresting people and throwing them in the can is the fact
that they will probably get drugs while they are inside and the moment they
come out they go back where they started from, and the fact that they have a
conviction makes them even less employable than they were before they went in.
I have just seen so many examples, and some of them I know personally and some
of them are related in a broader family sense. I have, as no doubt many of you
people have, seen this firsthand, and everything about it is tragic. We are
almost ensuring that this guy or this woman—normally a guy—ends up at the
bottom of the heap. If we sat down and worked out a plan to ensure that that is
where he would finish, we probably could not do a much better job. 
Although there was overall support for drug diversionary programs, some
submitters and witnesses identified a number of factors that may limit the
success of these programs. For example, SA Health said:
...the current drug diversion program is somewhat inadequate as
a deterrent to drug use and needs to be more complex and consist of more than
one counselling session. If we are serious about deterring drug use, we need to
be hard and fast about consequences for actions.
Giving a person one counselling session for being in
possession of a drug is probably not enough to change that person's mindset: I
go to one session and that is my penalty. I can sit through one session and
then go back and do the same behaviours again and again.
NSW Police Force highlighted that drug diversionary programs must be
matched with adequate treatment and rehabilitation capacity:
...if drug diversion strategies are pushed by police. You will
have a lot of meat being put into the mincer and a lot of sausages coming out,
but I hope there will be someone there to grab them at the other end. When
police start to focus on an area there are unintended consequences. So I think
there will need to be an increase in the availability of health professionals
for treatment and rehabilitation programs.
Not only must those services be available to offenders, but:
Drug diversion programs need to be able to adequately address
the inherent challenges associated with providing services to small,
geographically disparate communities, which often experience these higher
levels of social disadvantage and have a higher proportion of Aboriginal
residents. It is important, therefore, to ensure that the Illicit Drug
Diversion Initiative continues to have the capacity and capability to deliver
services that are responsive to changes in drug use patterns and, in
particular, can meet the needs of this diverse and sometimes challenging group
of psychostimulant users.
The Australian Psychological Society, which expressed support for
diversionary programs as a more effective means to deal with illicit drug use
said these programs need 'to be a therapeutic diversionary approach rather than
a custodial or supportive one. It needs to be therapeutic'.
The NIT's assessment of Australia's drug diversionary programs was that
they have benefits over traditional criminal justice responses, including
reducing rates of reoffending, lower overall costs, and improving health and
social outcomes for users. However, the NIT found that these programs:
...differ greatly in governance structures and how they
operate. Some of this variation is justified due to differences in geography,
culture, the nature of drug-related problems and other interventions, but there
is room for the broader application of best-practice approaches.
Concerns about existing diversionary programs identified by the NIT
equity of diversion;
access to the programs;
inconsistencies with the implementation of the programs; and
female offenders, young offenders, Indigenous offenders and
offenders in regional and remote communities having difficulty participating in
a diversionary program (due to not meeting eligibility criteria, physical
remoteness and the cultural factors).
The NIT recommended that state and territory governments, under the
National Drug Strategy Framework, review drug diversionary programs 'to
determine best practice approaches, and consider options for improving and
expanding existing arrangements'.
It was suggested that reviews include:
assessing how current designs are working and interacting with
identifying types of offenders and who would be best served by a
identifying issues of access and equity, particularly for young
examining different approaches and the best program design.
To further implement the NIT's recommendations, the NIAS identified a
national review of drug diversionary programs to 'inform best practice
approaches and options for improving and expanding existing arrangements' as a
The Penington Institute supported the review of Australia's diversionary
programs, but added that a review should also consider how to 'use diversionary
programs to identify people at greatest risk of progressing to problematic
use'. Further, the Institute argued for greater consistency in 'reporting on
the use of diversionary programs, especially where access to diversion is
determined by police discretion'.
The AGD informed the committee that:
Western Australia Police has undertaken a national review of
police drug diversionary programs, which was identified as a key priority under
the National Ice Action Strategy. We understand that the outcomes of this
review will be provided by Western Australia to the National Drug Strategy Committee
for its consideration.
Australian law enforcement agencies are largely supportive of drug
diversionary programs for some illicit drug offenders, and have seen some
success with them.
From the committee's perspective, effective drug diversionary programs
can have a range of positive impacts, not only for drug users, but also for
government by reducing the burden on and resources required by police and the
justice system. However, the committee agrees with the evidence from NSW police
and SA Health that drug diversionary programs must be implemented in
conjunction with adequate and accessible health and treatment services: there
is little value in diverting a drug offender to treatment and counselling
services if these are not fit-for-purpose, nor available in a timely and
geographically proximate way.
The committee concurs with the recommendation in the NIT's final report
and the key priority under the NIAS that drug diversionary programs should be
reviewed to inform best practice and identify options for improving and
expanding such programs. The committee suggests that action is taken one step
further and that subsequent to the national review, states and territories
commit to improving, expanding, or where no drug diversion program(s) currently
exists, implementing drug diversionary programs across their jurisdictions.
The committee recommends that, subsequent to the national review of drug
diversionary programs articulated by the National Ice Taskforce and in the
National Ice Action Strategy, states and territories commit to improving,
expanding, or where no drug diversionary program(s) currently exists,
implementing such programs across their jurisdictions.
Control and monitoring of precursor chemicals
In its 2015 submission to this inquiry, the Commonwealth government indicated
that its law enforcement agencies have seen strong growth in the importation of
precursor chemicals. These agencies report that organised criminal groups are
purchasing precursor chemical from lower priced countries, such as China and
India, and importing them in large volumes.
These precursor products are imported illegally, by mislabelling and
concealing the products, or by importing quantities that are inconsistent with
their intended use. Criminal groups also use a technique known as precursor
masking, which involves altering the product's chemical structure to avoid
detection at the border.
Reporting by the ACIC in its Illicit Drug Data Report 2015–16
shows a continued decline in the detection of clandestine laboratories within
Australia. However, the ACIC noted that the detection of industrial scale
laboratories has increased.
In 2014–15, law enforcement agencies detected 667 clandestine laboratories, in
2015–16 there were 575.
At the border, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), (excluding MDMA)
precursor detections have also declined, from 620 in 2014–15 to 400 in 2015–16.
Although the number has decreased, the weight has increased substantially:
500.8 kilograms in 2014–15 to 1063.7 kilograms in 2015–16.
Most of the detections by number were in international mail; however, by
weight, it was via air and sea cargo routes.
China (including Hong Kong), Vietnam, Malaysia, India, the United
Kingdom, Ethiopia, Korea, Indonesia and the USA are the main embankment points
for precursor chemicals trafficked to Australia.
A concern raised during the course of the inquiry was that of domestic
controls for precursor chemicals. Although compliance with regulatory and
voluntary controls has increased, inconsistencies between jurisdictions have
meant that domestic diversion of precursor chemicals can be exploited by
organised criminal groups. Chemicals are being diverted from hospitals, medical
centres, transport chains, waste destruction facilities, pharmacies and
chemical companies. The Commonwealth government reported that criminal groups
resort to 'breaking and entering, exploitation of contacts within legitimate
businesses, internet sales', or establishing seemingly legitimate chemical
companies to use as cover for purchasing and possessing precursor chemicals.
The NIT's final report discussed precursors and the manufacture of
crystal methamphetamine. It noted a doubling in clandestine methamphetamine
laboratories in Australia over a decade. However, in recent times this number
has plateaued. The NIT stated, however, that laboratories are becoming larger and
more sophisticated, and it is unclear whether the overall quantity of domestically-produced
methamphetamine has fallen.
The NIT ultimately recommended that:
The Commonwealth Government should:
continue to work with the states
and territories to examine ways to achieve greater national consistency of
controls on precursor chemicals and equipment, and an agile mechanism to amend
existing legislation as illicit manufacturing methods evolve
prioritise the development of a
national electronic end-user declaration system to provide law enforcement
agencies with access to information about precursor and equipment sales across
Australia through an online, searchable database
encourage states and territories
to enact legislation to support compliance with the new end-user declaration
engage with industry to facilitate
the development of a more contemporary and comprehensive industry code to
provide best-practice guidelines for supply diversion into illicit drug
Nationally consistent controls of
precursor chemicals and equipment
The control of precursor chemicals and equipment is the responsibility
of the states and territories, and at present, the regulatory systems differ
between jurisdictions resulting in three particular problems:
inconsistencies in jurisdictional
controls, both in terms of the type of controls and the list of precursor
chemicals and equipment to which they apply
the lack of real-time submission
and sharing of information about precursor sales with law enforcement agencies,
limited collection and sharing of
intelligence regarding the importation of precursor chemicals.
To improve the currently inconsistent control of precursor chemicals and
equipment, and in response the NIT's recommendations, the Commonwealth
government has announced a number of initiatives. For example, on 5 April 2016 the
government released the Precursor Chemicals Information Resource (PCIR). The Minister
for Justice, the Hon. Michael Keenan MP described the PCIR as 'a vital tool for
those involved in the legitimate chemical supply chain, whose products are
being diverted to the illegal market'.
The PCIR is designed to educate industry about what
indicators to look out for in relation to the diversion of chemicals, which in
turn will assist law enforcement in combating the illicit manufacture of drugs...The
chemicals and methods in the PCIR are those which have either been directly
linked to illicit manufacturing events, or which are considered viable and
likely to be used in a clandestine laboratory environment...This new resource is
another important step in responding effectively to the domestic manufacture of
illicit drugs to protect Australians, and in identifying and understanding drug
manufacturing techniques which are being used by organised crime groups.
On 21 October 2016, the COAG Law, Crime and Community Safety Council
agreed to introduce new measures to improve the national consistency of
controls on precursor chemicals and equipment used to manufacture crystal
methamphetamine and other illicit drugs.
To improve national consistency of controls:
Ministers agreed that all jurisdictions will implement
harmonised schedules of precursor chemicals and equipment, to establish a
national electronic end user declaration system and to strengthen
information-sharing between border and law enforcement agencies.
As stated above, an element of these reforms is the development
of the national electronic End User Declaration System (eEUD). The eEUD will
give law enforcement agencies access to information in 'real time' and according
to the Regulation Impact Statement:
The key benefit of the proposed
electronic system is its ability to automatically to alert law enforcement
about suspicious precursor sales using pre-defined triggers. This would enable
proactive investigation of illicit activity and enhance visibility of precursor
distribution, new and emerging precursors, manufacturing trends and illicit
drug availability across Australian jurisdictions.
Improved ‘data matching’ across
jurisdictions would assist in deployment of resources to target higher value
investigations and to undertake proactive deterrence strategies. This may also
enhance collaboration in cross-jurisdictional/national responses.
A centralised system would reduce
the resources that need to be devoted to on-site visits to suppliers and enable
law enforcement to target their efforts towards strategic rather than
More broadly, by tracing sales
through either an account, or via a traceable means (for non-account holders),
law enforcement would be equipped with an audit trail with which to aid
investigations and prosecutions.
The ACIC will host the eEUD system
and informed the committee:
Criminals often take the path of least resistance, so if they
can easily divert a precursor that has been legitimately imported into
Australia then they will do that. The purpose of the end-user declaration
system is to clearly record who is actually purchasing with a licence those
particular precursors. By the same token you can illegally import precursors,
just like you can the finished product. So there are two streams that they can
come in: they can come in lawfully and be diverted, or they can come in
unlawfully in the first instance, just like the finished product.
Concerns about the control and diversion of precursor chemicals and
equipment were raised with the committee during the early stages of its
In 2015, the NSW Police Force discussed with the committee the issue of
precursor controls. It spoke about the work it had done to inform a national
control framework. At the time, the NSW police commented that there was a
'limited capacity to monitor and regulate the supply and subsequent diversion
of precursor chemicals and equipment used in manufacture of methamphetamines'
and this has 'contributed to its production and availability nationally'.
In response to this issue, the NSW Police Force at the time was leading
a national working group to develop an end of user declaration system. This working
group reported in May 2015 and supported:
the development and implementation of a national web-based system
for end user declarations;
the implementation by states and territories of legislative and
regulations that mandate an end of user system;
the harmonisation by states and territories of schedules that
deal with precursor chemicals and equipment; and
that consideration be given to align Commonwealth border controls
of precursor chemical and equipment with legislation and regulations of the
states and territories.
The NSW Police Force highlighted the importance of the Commonwealth
aligning its border control with state and territory legislation and regulations,
and added the importance of dialogue with Australia's international partners:
Australia is currently vulnerable to the business practices
of our trading partners. There are many examples of the importation of
mislabelled chemicals and equipment which is aided by overseas manufacturers.
This raises the need for ongoing dialogue with international trading partners
regarding their own border controls.
The committee is supportive of measures that improve control and
monitoring of precursor chemicals and equipment. Such measures will help to
eliminate the local manufacture of crystal methamphetamine and reduce the
prevalence of clandestine laboratories in Australia. To this end, the committee
recommends that the eEUD is implemented as soon as practicable.
The committee recommends that Australian governments implement the
electronic End User Declaration System as soon as practicable.
However, the committee highlights that recent data show that the
importation of precursor chemicals and the prevalence of local clandestine
laboratories are in decline (see paragraphs 5.72–5.76). During the same period,
the availability of crystal methamphetamine in Australia has not diminished. Put
simply, domestically manufactured crystal methamphetamine pales in comparison to
the quantity of crystal methamphetamine manufactured elsewhere and trafficked
to Australia. Therefore, efforts to improve the control and monitoring of
precursor chemicals and equipment cannot occur in isolation, they must occur in
concert with other strategies to disrupt supply of and reduce demand for the
Eligibility criteria for aviation and maritime security identification
Prior to the release of the NIT's final report and the NIAS, the
committee received evidence expressing concern about the Maritime Security
Identification Card (MSIC) and Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) schemes.
These schemes background check and identify individuals working in Australia's
aviation and waterfront industries.
Victoria Police warned the committee that the MSIC and ASIC regimes were
'failing to limit or prevent criminal activity within the aviation/waterfront
industries' and that:
Organised crime groups are exploiting inadequacies in the
MSIC and ASIC systems and infiltrating ports, airports and related logistics
industries. While the Australian National Audit Office conducted a review into
the system in 2006 and 2007, there is limited visibility as to how these
recommendations have been addressed. There is a need for a thorough review of
vulnerabilities in the waterfront and aviation industries and for the
robustness and adequacy of the MSIC and ASIC systems to be carefully
The final report of the NIT discussed the infiltration of serious and
organised crime groups at Australia's airports and seaports. The NIT found
...the use of criminal intelligence in the background checking
process for ASIC and MSICs could help identify links to organised crime among workers
at air and sea ports and enhance the effectiveness of this regime in mitigating
the risk from trusted insiders. The [ACC] is a valuable source of criminal
intelligence to support such background checks.
The [AGD] and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional
Development are already progressing reforms to the ASIC and MSIC schemes. These
reforms seek to amend legislation (the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004
and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003) to
include serious and organised crime considerations in the ASIC and MSIC
eligibility criteria and to introduce a tiered approach to eligibility
criteria, based on the seriousness and risk associated with different criminal
offences. There is potential to also lay the foundation for the use of criminal
intelligence to identify cases where individuals have links to organised crime,
but have not been convicted of a relevant offence.
Options for benchmark legislation may be found in state and
territory security schemes, such as the ‘fit and proper person’ and ‘public
interest’ standards that exist in the governance of New South Wales security
The NIT concluded that the Commonwealth government should:
...continue to protect the aviation and maritime environments
against organised crime by strengthening the eligibility criteria for holders of
[ASIC and MSIC]; and establishing a legal mechanism to enable compelling criminal
intelligence to be used in determining suitability of workers to hold such a
This recommendation was agreed to by COAG in the NIAS.
On 11 February 2016, the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or
Organised Crime) Bill 2016 was introduced into Parliament. The Bill sought to
amend the Aviation Transport Security Act 2006 and the Maritime Transport
and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003; however, this bill is not
On 31 August 2016, the Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill
2016 was introduced into Parliament. The bill seeks to:
- create an
additional purpose in the Aviation and Maritime Acts to prevent the use of
aviation and maritime transport or offshore oil and gas facilities in
connection with serious or organised crime;
the strengthening of the eligibility criteria for the ASIC and MSIC schemes to
target serious criminal offences;
and align the legislative basis for undertaking background checking of
individuals under the Aviation and Maritime Acts;
- allow for
regulations to be made prescribing penalties for offences against the new
serious or organised crime requirements that are consistent with existing
penalty provisions across the ASIC and MSIC schemes; and
- insert an
additional severability provision to provide guidance to a court as to
The bill is currently before the House of Representatives.
The committee is aware that the ASIC and MSIC schemes have been the
subject of multiple inquiries by various parliamentary committees, including:
this committee's 2011 inquiry into the adequacy of aviation and
maritime security measures to combat serious and organised crime;
the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission
for Law Enforcement Integrity's 2016 inquiry into the jurisdiction of the
Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity;
the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation
Committee's 2016 inquiry into the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or
Organised Crime) Bill 2016 [Provisions]; and
the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References
Committee's 2017 inquiry into airport and aviation security.
As outlined in paragraphs 5.94 and 5.95, the schemes are also currently
the subject of legislative change, as proposed in the Transport Security
Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill 2016.
For these reasons, the committee will not discuss the merits of and
possible changes to the ASIC and MSIC schemes in any detail. Nevertheless, the
committee agrees with the NIT's recommendation that the eligibility criteria
for ASIC and MSIC cards should be strengthened and that a mechanism allowing
the use of criminal intelligence—particularly where a person may have links
with serious and organised crime but has not been convicted of a relevant
offence—in the ASIC and MSIC vetting processes is warranted.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government strengthens eligibility
criteria for Aviation Security Identification Cards and Maritime Security
Identification Cards to address current inadequacies, particularly the use of criminal
intelligence where a person may have links with serious and organise crime.
Co-operation with international partners
The NIAS commits the Commonwealth government to strengthening its
international co-operation by developing a new international supply disruption
The NIT also advocated that the Commonwealth government consider a
transnational engagement strategy in the Asia and Pacific region to target
international drug networks.
The AGD informed the committee that the aim of the international
strategy is to 'consolidate and leverage the existing law enforcement efforts
to even better disrupt the supply of ice and its precursors from major source
and transit countries'.
As of March 2017, this strategy was in an advanced stage of development and the
AGD confirmed it is forthcoming.
This forthcoming international strategy will be part of a number of
existing collaborative efforts to target the activities of serious and
organised crime groups. International collaborations, such as Taskforce Blaze
and Strikeforce Dragon, are examples of these existing efforts. Australia also
promotes international co-operation through the United Nation's (UN) Commission
on Narcotic Drugs (CND). The following sections consider existing international
collaboration as well as other opportunities for Australia to engage with the international
partners in the Asia Pacific region.
In November 2015, the AFP and the Chinese National Narcotics Control
Commission established Taskforce Blaze, a joint investigatory body targeting
the trafficking of methamphetamine into Australia. This taskforce was the first
of its kind, making Australia the first and only country to form this type of
crime fighting operation with China.
The AFP briefed the committee on its relationship with China:
We have six liaison officers based in China. We have two in
Beijing, two in Guangzhou and two in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has always been one
of our centres of operation; we have been there for something like 32 or 33
years, with high-level cooperation there. China is a relatively new area for
us—within the last 10 or 15 years. Taskforce Blaze, in my view, has been an
outstanding success. It commenced in November 2015 almost as a pilot task force
that we thought would do some relatively successful operations. It has gone
well past that. It has gone well past any expectation that we had at its
introduction. Something like seven tonnes of drugs have been taken off the
streets both in Australia and China as a result of that task force.
On 6 June 2017, the Minister for Justice announced Taskforce Blaze would
continue to operate until January 2018. The minister said the new agreement
would 'continue to focus on expanding investigation into multinational drug
He added that since Taskforce Blaze's inception, 10.5 tonnes of illicit
drugs and precursors, worth more than $5 billion, had been seized.
The committee sought further insight from the AFP on relations between
China and Australia. Commander Bruce Hill reflected on Australia's relationship
with China, as well as other countries in Asia:
China, for us, is a new arena. Their way of operating, their
political system—everything—is completely different to us. For us to come
together and operate as one is going to take a long time. But I must say: they
are making a very strong, sincere effort, particularly with us, to bridge that
Like I said in my introduction, in our wildest dreams we
never thought we would be sitting here talking about how successful Taskforce
Blaze is. They are definitely taking a leadership role in the region. We have
set up other taskforces. There is one in Thailand, Taskforce Storm; one in
Cambodia, Taskforce Dragon; we have information from Myanmar. They see the
advantages of this union and of us working together.
I think the future is very bright. It has a lot of issues to
get there but I think, in the future, it is just going to be better and better
for us. Be mindful, like I said, we only have six people in country. We also
have Border Force and other agencies there as well. So far we are doing what we
can with our resources to be very successful. I think, over the next year or
two, you are going to see some very, very successful operations as a result of
They have organised crime in their country like other
countries. China is an incredible country that is emerging like it never has
before. It has seven of the top 10 ports in the world. I went to Shenzhen,
which is one of the big ports. When you stand there and look at the container
terminal, you are just completely blown away. With the size of the ports and
the number of containers they move through every year and then we have to try
to find 100 kilos or 500 kilos in a container coming to Australia is why
intelligence is so important. If we do not have these relationships and are not
moving this intelligence between us, we are dead in the water. I think we are
very successful. We are ahead of the game in a lot of ways.
When asked about Australia's role coordinating responses to tackle
crystal methamphetamine, Commander Hill replied:
I must say that I am a little bit biased. I have been out to
the network three times. I have been to Indonesia, Thailand and China. I would
say we are one of the world leaders in this region, and so we should be.
Financial intelligence co-operation
In addition Taskforce Blaze, AUSTRAC informed the committee that
progress has been made in establishing financial intelligence co-operation with
China. In November 2016, AUSTRAC signed an agreement with the Chinese
Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Centre. This agreement is
Australia's first information exchange with China around financial intelligence
because China is not a member of the international financial network, known as
the Egmont Group.
The Egmont Group is a body of 154 Financial Intelligence Units that exchange
expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorism
Since the agreement was made, China and Australia now have monthly
...predominantly centred around suspect matter reporting, which
is predominantly around money laundering and terrorism financing. But, within
those categories, you will find issues around corruption, narcotic trafficking
and other predicative offences.
Since July 2017, there had been five information exchanges that have:
...produced actionable intelligence for partner agencies, and
we are in the process of negotiating a [Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)] with
the financial regulator in China. Unlike Australia, the financial regulator and
the financial intelligence unit are two different agencies. Those negotiations
are well progressed.
Strikeforce Dragon and Taskforce
In addition to China, Australian law enforcement agencies are progressing
their co-operation with other countries in Asia. On 2 June 2016, the
AFP formalised an agreement with the Cambodian National Police and the Cambodian
General Department of Immigration to target illicit drugs and transnational
crime. This agreement has been called Strikeforce Dragon.
The AFP has also partnered with the Royal Thai Police, Thailand's Office
of Narcotics Control Board and the Thai Department of Special Investigation and
Anti‑Money Laundering Office to target transnational organised crime,
including the trafficking of crystal methamphetamine.
Taskforce Storm was:
...set up specifically on the back of the Outlaw motorcycle
gang threat. As you all well know, that is a very definite threat in this
country. They are not staying just in this country, they are setting themselves
up in South-East Asia. The Thais, who are very good partners with us, have
joined together. There are four agencies that now form Taskforce Storm and we
have an excellent working relationship with them to target particularly
organisers of crime. It is not limited to OMCGs, it is most predominantly on
ice and on ice traffickers.
Model for international 'best
practice' and other regional developments
The UNODC advised the committee that the 'best practice' model for
responding to illicit drugs is the UN's outcome document from the 2016 UN
General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem.
The outcome document, which comprises a set of operational
recommendations encouraging countries to adopt a multifaceted drug policy,
focuses on three themes:
market demand reduction, such as drug use prevention and
supply reduction, such as effective law enforcement measures that
address organised crime; and
cross-cutting issues, such as human rights issues and the
emerging synthetic drugs market.
UNGASS signifies international endorsement for a shift away from drug strategies
primarily driven by law enforcement policies towards health orientated policies.
The UNODC provided the committee with a number of examples of where UNGASS has
informed regional drug strategies.
For example, Myanmar's government is currently aligning drug policies
with the UNGASS outcome document. The UNODC informed the committee that consultations
from across Myanmar's government have occurred, with a drug policy review
document currently being formulated in consultation with the UNODC. This
document is expected to create a new set of holistic strategies to address
illicit drug use in Myanmar, including methamphetamine.
Linked to Myanmar's strategy is the Mekong Memorandum of Understanding
on Drug Control (Mekong MOU). The Mekong MOU brings together Cambodia, China,
Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to address the threat posed by illicit
drug production, trafficking and use. It is guided by the UNGASS and
prioritises drugs and health, law enforcement co-operation, legal and judicial co-operation
and sustainable alternative development.
The Mekong MOU has also formulated a new Sub-regional Action Plan (SAP)
in line with recommendations found in UNGASS.
The SAP is updated every two years, with its latest iteration for 2017–19. One
of the SAP's thematic areas is law enforcement:
...which provides a strategic outline for collaborative efforts
of MOU signatories, and puts into place action-oriented programmes that assist
member Governments, individually and collectively, to fight illicit drug
production, trafficking and use.
The UNODC also informed the committee that a delegation from Thailand has
visited Portugal to review the decriminalised approach to illicit drugs in that
country. Thailand, which has a significant crystal methamphetamine problem, has
over recent years moved towards drug policies with a focus on preventative and
Australia's international role
The Department of Health informed the committee that one of Australia's
objectives as a member of the CND is to 'promote international cooperation in
dealing with new psychoactive substances (NPS)...and [ATS] including
Australia introduced a resolution, adopted by the CND at its 58th
session in March 2015, that sought to keep ATS issues at the forefront of the
CND and 'emphasised the importance of combining regulatory and treatment
delivery responses to address emerging illicit drug issues and improve health
During the 59th session of the CND, in March 2016, a
delegation led by Australia negotiated another resolution that:
international co-operation in
monitoring the movement of precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of ATS
and [new psychoactive substances (NPS)];
sharing national approaches to
reducing access to prevalent, persistent and harmful NPS that remain outside
the system of international scheduling; and
supporting the World Health
Organisation to prioritise assessments of NPS when making scheduling
During the 59th session of the CND Australia also held a side
event on addressing methamphetamine-related harms, featuring the work of the
NIT and the NIAS.
While Australia already plays an important role in fostering
international collaboration and the development of international drug policies,
the UNODC argued that Australia could play a larger role in the Asia Pacific
region. The UNODC suggested that Australia can achieve this by engaging with
existing regional mechanisms addressing illicit drug matters, such as the
Mekong MOU, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Senior Officials
Meeting on Drug Matters and the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational
The UNODC considered Australia's engagement with these regional bodies could:
...strengthen ties with countries in the region, and formulate
regional responses that mutually benefit all parties. Australia also could
share its own best practices in relation to effective supply and market demand
According to the UNODC, a current gap in regional co-operation is that information
sharing is largely limited to law enforcement. At present, there is no regional
mechanism that 'brings not only law enforcement but also public health, and
other relevant key authorities to formulate and discuss drug strategies'.
The UNODC is currently developing awareness of law enforcement officials' role
in supporting public health policies, such as HIV prevention, treatment and
care, and 'creating partnerships between law enforcement with public health and
The committee continues to support the Commonwealth government's co‑operation
with regional partners to facilitate a transnational framework for tackling
illicit drug trafficking. Existing partnerships, such as Taskforces Blaze and Storm
and Strikeforce Dragon are evidence of the success that can be achieved through
collaborative efforts; the committee commends Australian law enforcement
agencies for their world-leading approach to international co-operation.
The committee is pleased by the advice from the AGD that an
international strategy, to coordinate existing law enforcement activities with
our regional partners, is well advanced. It is through enhanced regional co-operation
such as this that law enforcement partners will be able to further disrupt the
manufacture and supply of crystal methamphetamine. The committee looks forward
to the release of this strategy.
The committee welcomes AUSTRAC's agreement with the Chinese Anti‑Money
Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Centre to exchange financial intelligence,
and the endeavours to establish a MOU with the Chinese financial regulator.
AUSTRAC's evidence states that these activities are primarily focused on money
laundering and terrorism funding. Other illicit activities, such as corruption
and drug trafficking, are supplementary to that work.
The committee congratulates the Commonwealth government on its advocacy
through the CND and its efforts to ensure that addressing the harms arising
from ATS remains a priority. The committee strongly supports Australia's
objectives to promote international co-operation with respect to monitoring
precursor chemicals and sharing approaches to reduce access to illicit drugs.
The committee notes, however, that much of the international collaboration to
date has focussed on law enforcement.
As discussed elsewhere in this report, the NIT's final report and the
NIAS mark a shift from a primarily law enforcement approach to one with a
greater emphasis on health and treatment approaches. The committee notes that
the Australian government has already sought to share its approach under the
NIAS internationally and encourages the government to continue doing so.
Consistent with the UNODC's recommendation that Australia expands its
leadership in this area through other international fora such as the Mekong MOU
and ASEAN, the committee also recommends that Australia considers strengthening
ties with countries in the Asia Pacific (beyond China, Cambodia and Thailand);
collaborating to develop regional law enforcement and health and welfare
responses to crystal methamphetamine; and sharing its practices with a
particular focus on demand reduction and harm reduction. In doing so, the
committee recommends that the Australian government look to establish
co-operative relationships with health and welfare authorities, in addition to
relationships with law enforcement agencies.
The committee recommends that the Australian government expand its
leadership in relevant international fora and considers:
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
Limitations of law enforcement strategies
Both law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders told the committee
that law enforcement strategies cannot operate in a vacuum if they are to
succeed in combating Australia's crystal methamphetamine problem. Indeed, the
NIT and the NIAS both address this situation by advocating for health-led
approaches to the problems created by crystal methamphetamine.
The AFP described the limits of law enforcement's reach, arguing that
the most important approach to reduce illicit drug consumption is, in fact,
You can give us double the money to do this; it is next to
impossible to stop importation of methamphetamine or new psychoactive
substances. There are a whole series of chemicals and derivatives of chemicals
that we simply cannot stop—it is next to impossible. So the emphasis has to be
on demand. Most certainly our emphasis needs to be on law enforcement, stopping
the organisers—not the people at the street level who are taking it. That
should be dealt with, and I know it is being dealt with, but our job is to take
the organisers, and we are putting all our effort, particularly at the federal
level, into chasing after these guys—whether they are here domestically or
internationally. That is what we should be doing. We are not going to stop
drugs being imported into this country.
The SA Police agreed:
We have a very difficult job. Does that mean that we are
catching up or trying to get ahead of the curve? It probably does. But what I
will say is that the strides forward that we have seen, the partnership, the
operations conducted and the results achieved have then forced the behaviour of
these groups to be modified, to change, to take further risks and the like. I
would like to think that the efforts, in combination with the education and the
treatment programs, are making a significant difference. Is it ahead of the
curve now? No, I would not be confident to say that because there are still a
lot of people suffering who are addicted and who are still facing significant
Dr John Coyne submitted that despite a continued increase in amphetamines
seizures, researchers from the AIC have found it is not having any marked
impact on the drug's domestic availability to users'.
Dr Coyne argued:
...border enforcement’s impact on ATS domestic availability is
delayed by factors such as the presence of stockpiles, or market-responsive
domestic manufacturing. But increased seizure rates have been a consistent
trend over recent years, so decreases in domestic availability should have been
realised by now, if the current strategy were effective.
Dr Coyne provided the committee with an analysis the ACIC's Illicit
Drug Data Report 2014–15. He argued that illicit drugs are actually becoming
easier to obtain (see evidence in chapter 2 about availability) and that the
average price of crystal methamphetamine continues to decrease.
Dr Coyne remarked that despite record seizures:
...stable user prices reveal border and enforcement agencies
are not seizing increasing percentages of the total ATS (and their precursors)
being imported into Australia.
These findings indicate the existence of a disconnect between
the use of seizure rates as a performance measure and the achievement of the
government’s policy intent of harm minimisation. More specifically this
submission argues that concentrating enforcement strategy towards higher
seizure rates, restricts the ability of enforcement officers to implement
innovative strategies to reduce supply reduction.
As a consequence, law enforcement agencies 'focus on achieving higher
seizure rates and arrests' as a performance measure.
However, the pursuit of these performance measures comes:
...at the cost of other, more innovative strategies and
measures, which may include interventions by agencies not involved in law
enforcement. Seizure and arrest rates have great political value, as they
provide tangible quantitative measures of ‘getting tough’ policies. Law
enforcement policymakers face a conundrum: whether to continue to pursue
politically sensitive increases in seizures and arrests or to pursue less
tangible but more complex and difficult outcomes, such as cooperating
internationally to reduce illicit drug supply.
As discussed in chapter 4, law enforcement strategies have not managed
to reduce the availability, purity or price of crystal methamphetamine on the
streets, despite record seizures. A common measure of law enforcement's success
is seizure data, yet these seizures do not appear to impact the purity or
increase the price of crystal methamphetamine. For this reason, a number of
submitters argued for changes to the way in which law enforcement agencies'
Measuring the success of law
Related to the effectiveness of law enforcement strategies, Professor Paul Dietze
from the Burnet Institute questioned the appropriateness of measuring the
success of law enforcement agencies by the number and/or weight of seizures,
and the number of drug-related arrests.
As an alternative, Professor Dietze identified one possible alternative measure.
The purity-adjusted price, which establishes a performance indicator for law
enforcement agencies, is to 'drive up the price per pure gram'.
Professor Dietze suggested current policies are failing because the price per
pure gram is falling quite dramatically (see chapter 2 for information about
the purity of crystal methamphetamine)
...we need to start thinking about what the indicators are that
are important. If disrupting the methamphetamine market is the goal of law
enforcement, for example, then driving purity adjusted price upwards would be
one of the key targets. In actual fact, it has gone the reverse, despite
significant investment. Those kinds of investments probably need to be
Professor Dietze also argued that the increase in the number of arrests
for consumer-related offences is a major problem, for both law enforcement and
for the community because:
...it does not actually do anything in relation to the
purity-adjusted price. Law enforcement resources either need to be reinvested
because they have been failing, or alternatively the law enforcement strategies
need to be revised so that there is a different targeting.
The most recent National Drug Strategy (NDS) 2017–2026 specifically
outlines five headline indicators that will be used to measure the success of
the NDS (see chapter 3). However, the headline indicators do not include quantifiable
key performance indicators for purity or availability of illicit drugs. Instead,
the availability and purity of illegal drugs, along with the Illicit Drug Data
Reports, are listed as supplementary indicators
to inform annual progress reports to the MDAF.
The former NDS for 2010–2015 had a performance measure
aimed at reducing the purity levels and increasing the price of illicit drugs,
but the NDS for 2010–2015 did not provide a quantifiable benchmark for this
The NDS 2017–2026 report's headline indicators are informed by the Evaluation
and Monitoring of the National Drug Strategy 2004-2009 Final Report
(evaluation report). The evaluation report considered the matter of illicit
drug purity, and advocated for an information system on the purity of illicit
drugs to improve the monitoring and evaluation of the NDS as:
...valid and reliable information system on the purity of
illicit drugs would be valuable for NDS monitoring and evaluation, because
purity has been identified as the best single indicator of illicit drug
The evaluation report noted the absence of any common data standard for
Commonwealth, state and territory police services, thus making it difficult to
obtain an accurate measure of the purity of illicit drugs. The report found the
Illicit Drug Data Report used 'somewhat patchy purity data on a
state-by-state basis but cannot provide a national overview'
and recommended a:
consistent, coherent national system for monitoring the
purity of illicit drugs
as a key indicator of drug availability, and by extension the success of drug
law enforcement agencies in reducing drug availability.
New Zealand has adopted different key performance indicators, in its Tackling
Methamphetamine: Indicators and Progress Reports. The reporting on supply
reduction measures includes indicators tracking the price and purity of
methamphetamine, and establishes a desired trend of supply control leading to
an increased price and lower purity over time.
Law enforcement strategies play a vital role in combating the
manufacture, importation and distribution of illicit drugs. However, evidence to
the committee demonstrates that law enforcement strategies alone will not solve
the problem of illicit drugs in Australia. Despite record numbers of detections
at the Australian border, the committee heard that there continues to be a high
level of availability on the streets, and the purity of crystal methamphetamine
remains high. Meanwhile, the price of crystal methamphetamine remains low.
The NIT, the NIAS and the NDS articulate a comprehensive policy
solution, combining supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction measures,
not just law enforcement. Implementation of the NIAS has already begun, as discussed
in this report and as evidenced by the Commonwealth's allocation of funds (see
chapter 3), and has been integrated into the most recent iteration of the NDS
for 2017–2026. The committee is supportive of Australian law enforcement
agencies' work to address crystal methamphetamine; the committee also welcomes
the shift towards an approach with a greater emphasis on health and welfare. The
committee intends to monitor the progress of the NIAS and would welcome updates
from the Commonwealth government in relation to its progress and efficacy
within the broader policy setting established by the NDS.
With respect to measuring the success of law enforcement strategies,
however, the committee acknowledges the criticism raised by some submitters and
witnesses, and agrees that alternative and potentially more meaningful measures
should be given consideration. Using seizure rates as a measure of success fails
to capture nuances in the crystal methamphetamine market such as the impact of
seizures on the quality, quantity and price of crystal methamphetamine, which
to date have not been negatively affected by higher numbers of seizures.
The need for a national monitoring system for the purity of illicit
drugs committee was not raised the course of this inquiry; the committee notes
that such information is currently provided in the ACIC's Illicit Drug Data
Reports. The committee is, however, concerned that the current iteration of the
NDS omits measures of availability, purity and price as headline benchmarks,
despite the evaluation report identifying purity 'as the best single indicator
of illicit drug availability'.
The committee recommends that attempts to measure the impact of law enforcement
strategies should include assessments of the availability, purity and price of
the drug, particularly at the street level. Steps should be taken to include
these measures in the NDS 2017–2026.
The committee recommends that Australian 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.
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