The Commonwealth Government’s plan to develop a national strategy aimed at combatting the drug ice has been strongly welcomed by The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie and The Nationals Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced that the Commonwealth Government would work with the States and Territories to develop a National Ice Action Strategy.
The first step in developing a National Ice Action Strategy is the establishment of a National Ice Taskforce, led by former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Ken Lay and oversighted by the Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan.
Senator McKenzie said The Nationals were strong advocates for developing a Taskforce to combat the scourge of ice.
She said the Taskforce would bring together all existing state and territory efforts to develop a national strategy, with an interim report to be released mid- 2015.
“The Taskforce will examine existing efforts to address ice across law enforcement, health and education, identify any gaps and examine ways to ensure government responses are appropriately targeted, efficient and effective,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Ice is a growing problem in our regional and rural towns, affecting our schools, sporting clubs, workplaces and causing great harm to users and their family, friends and the wider community.
“In March last year, I called for the implementation of a national approach to tackle ice in our communities and I am pleased that the Commonwealth Government has responded and fighting this in a unified and systematic way.
”Senator McKenzie said governments of all persuasions needed to act with the Australian Crime Commission recently announcing that ice posed the highest risk of all illicit drugs to our Australian communities.
“The use of ice almost doubled amongst methamphetamine users in the last twelve months,” Senator McKenzie said.
“We cannot let our young people and our communities be held hostage by drug dealers, bikies and organised criminals who are profiting from the misery inflicted by this growing epidemic in our communities.
“Communities right across regional and rural Victoria have been looking at ways they can assist in the fight against this insidious drug by hosting community forums, discussions and implementing action plans, now it is time for all levels of government to work together to combat ice.”
Mr McCurdy, who last year was part of a Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into methamphetamine, said he was pleased that the Taskforce was seeking submissions and feedback from the community and expert groups to ensure that all Australians affected by ice had the opportunity to have their say.
“Ice has caused significant harm to communities in the North East, particularly Wangaratta, and I would encourage locals to put their view forward on how we can best tackle this ever growing problem,”
Mr McCurdy said.“The former Victorian Coalition Government was keen to act, committing $38 million for treatment services and withdrawal beds in Victoria ahead of last year’s State Election, including $6.9 million for the Hume region.“
Sadly, the new Labor Government doesn’t have the same commitment and is instead trying to arrest its way out of trouble, with around half of its recently announced $45 million ice package aimed at law enforcement, such as new drug and booze buses, as well as needle and syringe programs.“
Of course we need to be tough on those who profit from this horrible drug, but the focus should be on educating the community not to use the stuff in the first instance, and helping those who do find themselves using it get off it and stay off it.“
I urge Daniel Andrews and Labor to work with the Commonwealth Government to tackle this problem in a unified way because this is truly a national problem that needs a national solution.”