Politics Analysis

The Qld end to the beginning for the failed War on Drugs?

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(Image via Lancet UK)

IA applauds the Palaszczuk Queensland Labor Government's new stance on drug law enforcement, sensibly stating that drug use is primarily a health issue, not one of criminal justice.

The Queensland Government has simply succumbed to the overwhelming weight of evidence, which suggests incarcerating the mostly hapless users of prohibited substances does nothing to stop the advancing drug trade. In fact, this antediluvian approach appears to do aught more than cause not only further injury to helpless addicts but actually serves to further entrench the authority of the influential drug empires obviously operating behind the scenes here and overseas.

The Queensland Labor Government has this week tabled legislation to introduce what appears to be the most moderate drug enforcement regime in Australia. In doing so, it seems to have conceded that the endless and cripplingly expensive “War on Drugs” will never be won using the same outdated trench warfare tactics relentlessly waged by authorities over the last century.

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the change is the thorough endorsement it has received by almost every important organisation closely involved with this issue.

The changes were, astoundingly enough, requested by the much-maligned post-Fitzgerald Queensland Police Service. Under new Commissioner Katarina Carroll, the Service seems to have finally accepted that its time and scant resources are far better spent attacking more egregious iniquities, rather than insignificant offences.

As Police Commissioner Carroll said this week:

I wanted this reform because research shows that if you divert people early to health and education services they are less likely to reoffend.


… my esteemed predecessors as Police Commissioner [Jim O’Sullivan, Bob Atkinson and Ian Stewart] also wholeheartedly back this reform. It just makes sense….

Commissioner Carroll further noted that the new laws should help the Service focus on tackling the drug lords, rather than their unwilling dupes.

As Carroll said:

Police will continue their tough enforcement action in taking dangerous drugs off the streets of Queensland.


Saving police time by expanding drug diversion for minor offences would enable officers to target drug manufacturers and traffickers domestically and internationally.

Also supporting the new approach are the Australian Medical Association of Queensland (AMAQ), the Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (QNADA), the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

Indeed, the RACGP's succinctly titled "Specific Interests Addiction Medicine Chair" Dr Hester Wilson not only backed the changes, but called on the Queensland Government to go even further.

“You only need to look at the evidence overseas to see that a health-based approach makes sense,” explained Dr Wilson.

Dr Wilson also cited the highly controversial Portuguese model as an approach worth serious consideration:

Portugal’s decriminalisation model introduced more than 20 years ago has achieved particularly strong results. The Transform Drug Policy Foundation has found that the proportion of prisoners sentenced for drugs in that country has fallen from 40 per cent to 15 per cent and rates of drug use have remained consistently below the European Union average.


So, let’s look to the systems that work and follow the evidence-base. These measures in Queensland are a positive step forward and I encourage the Government to go even further in the years ahead.

It goes without saying that the Queensland Government’s progressive changes to drug enforcement policy have elicited all the usual responses from the L-NP Opposition and its persistent media allies. For instance, the only major metropolitan print newspaper in Queensland, the Murdoch-owned Courier Mail, has been ruthlessly consistent in its unflattering portrayals of the Annastacia Palaszczuk Government as allegedly being "soft on crime".

Despite the duress, IA hopes Labor will not cave in to such populist pressures. 

Criminalising drug abusers is not the solution. Nor is locking up ten-year-olds...

Read the rest of this vital story in Independent Australia's members-only area HEREYou can read more by Dave Donovan @davrosz.

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