FEDERAL Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said the New England Electorate will benefit from extra efforts to tackle the drug Ice as part of recent announcements by the Coalition Government today.
A $285.3 million package to tackle ice at the local level includes $241.5 million to be distributed through Local Primary Health Networks into treatment services for ice, alcohol and other drugs.
“Police all over Australia including our local police have done a great job, making a record 26,000 arrests in 2013-14. The Australian Crime Commission alone stopped almost $2 billion worth of ice hitting the streets in 2014-15,” Mr Joyce said.
“But ice remains easy to get, the price hasn’t changed. The Taskforce says we must also address demand if we are to be effective in combatting ice.
“This means helping people who are on the drug to get off it, and educating others never to start taking it. Removing the buyers from the market will break the business model of the drug dealers.
“I’m very pleased to see local people will make decisions about how best to help our region’s ice problem. This is much better than Canberra deciding what’s best for us,” he said.
Mr Joyce said the extra $241.5 million will be invested through the 31 Primary Health Networks, including the Hunter New England Central Coast PHN, which will use their local knowledge to boost the alcohol and other drug treatment sector and reduce demand for ice.
He said the PHNs will choose what forms of treatment is best bang for buck in the local region – be that counselling, rehabilitation or other forms of treatment. Government will also work closely with the Aboriginal Community Controlled health sector to invest in culturally appropriate services.
The PHNs also deliver mental health treatment services which will provide a vital link between the drug and alcohol treatment sector and the mental health sector.
Separately, the Coalition will invest around $13 million into a new Medicare item providing counselling for those addicted to drugs. The new Medicare items will also benefit patients in rural and regional Australia through the provision of improved rebates for telehealth counselling and by providing incentive for local doctors to practice in this field.
Mr Joyce said other grass-roots measures would also be part of the strategy.
“The Coalition Government will invest $19.2 million into 220 local community drug action teams to help with vital coordination of resources for both users and families which has been lacking in some communities. Groups may also choose to hold community forums. This measure will support and educate users, families and everyday people from within their own community,” he said.
“The Good Sports programme, which already promotes responsible consumption of alcohol in 1200 sporting clubs, will receive an extra $4.6 million over four years to take the message about ice to those clubs.
“Extending the Good Sports Programme to educate about ice will help convince young people not to try the drug through learning about it from peers in an environment they trust.
“The highly successful Life Education Van, which already visits 60,000 upper primary school aged students every year, will receive and extra $450,000 to educate children about the dangers of ice. Given the van is already operational, a relatively small investment can make a big difference here.”
The Minister responsible for drug and alcohol policy Senator Fiona Nash said getting people to stop taking ice would leave dealers with no-one to sell to.
“Helping those who are hooked on this drug to get off it takes the biggest buyers out of the market and reduces demand. Educating young people never to try ice means they never begin buying, steal, or cause harm to themselves or others as a result of drug addiction,” Senator Nash said.
“Providing better access to treatment helps those parents and family members who have a loved one in the grip of addiction. Reducing addiction also reduces addiction based crime, helping to keep all of us safe. We know much crime is committed to feed drug addiction.”
For more information about the National Ice Taskforce, including the Final Report, go to www.pmc.gov.au/ice