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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

dangers of drugs

Media Release

Leader of the State Opposition
Wednesday January 18, 2006

Liberals will undertake major new campaign warning of the dangers of drugs

Opposition Leader Rene Hidding today announced that a Hidding Liberal Government would embark upon a major new advertising blitz warning Tasmanians of the dangers of illicit drugs.

Today’s commitment to the $250,000 campaign is further proof that a Hidding Liberal Government will crack down in an unprecedented way on drug use in the community, which evidence suggests is getting out of control.

Mr Hidding said that in addition to causing crime and family breakdowns, there was now alarming new evidence that illicit drug use in Tasmania was creating a mental health time bomb waiting to explode.

“The time has come to send the clear message to the Tasmanian community that the use of drugs such as cannabis is not a recreational or relatively harmless activity it is profoundly dangerous,” Mr Hidding said.

“Unless we act now, in years to come our health system and our society generally stands to be overwhelmed by a surge in people suffering serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

“The Lennon Labor Government is soft on drugs and has proven this time and time again.

“It took a year of pressure from the State Liberals for Labor to adopt our policy of random drug testing of drivers. And it was only after the State Liberals announced a Hidding Liberal Government would close legislative loopholes which allowed drug traffickers to escape serious penalties and prevented random searching for drugs, that Labor finally acted.

We have also announced that we would:

· employ an additional twenty police officers;

· establish a dedicated police squad to randomly patrol the major entry points to our island and help stem the importation of illicit drugs;

· provide at least three new drug sniffing dogs to upgrade efforts to clamp down on drugs entering the State with at least one to be based at Devonport;

· bolster crime prevention programs, including drug-related crimes, through a
new levy on convicted criminals.

· establish a Drug Court;

· establish a dedicated Dob in a Dealer hotline

“Apart from this we have also called on Labor to review Tasmania’s drug laws with a view to making them the toughest in the nation. As it stands, we currently have some of Australia’s softest drug laws, with up to three cautions allowed.

“Shamefully Labor has refused to support any of these initiatives. Meanwhile the total lack of rehabilitation and treatment programs under Labor is also nothing short of a disgrace.

“I am sure that Labor, with its lack of vision for Securing Tasmania’s Future, and its warped priorities will find some way of being negative about this latest new and important policy initiative from the State Liberals.

“But the facts are as clear as day spending $250,000 on a major new educational and awareness campaign trying to steer our youth away from drugs has the potential to save our community many times this amount into the future, and is money far better spent than Labor’s shameful $250,000 political advertising rort.”

Mr Hidding said it was important that Tasmanians using drugs, or who had the potential to be exposed to them, understood the harsh reality that they are in fact highly dangerous, and that tagging drugs such as cannabis as relatively harmless recreational substances was completely wrong.

“The State Liberal team has pressed the Lennon Labor Government to address this most serious of problems, but its response has been to ignore the need for a review of our drug laws, and to focus its drugs strategy on alcohol and tobacco. While this is extremely important, illicit drugs should receive as much, if not, more attention from the State Government from a policy point of view.

“In particular, we need to redouble our efforts to try to convince people who are using drugs that this could have serious long-term health effects, and try to prevent our young people from ever wanting to try them in a similar way to the graphic and very successful anti-smoking campaigns of recent years.

“This element of the campaign to be waged against drugs under a Hidding Liberal Government will be unashamedly hard-hitting and graphic.

“The campaign will feature victims of drug use people who have suffered mental illness as a result of their drug use, or who have had to endure the suffering of a family member or friend who has developed a psychotic illness that was linked to their drug use, as well as people who destroyed their lives by turning to crime, or suffering family breakdowns, because of their habits.

“It will involved television, radio and newspaper advertisements, and brochures to be distributed to schools and a wide variety of non-government organizations and government agencies highlighting the dangers of drug use.”

Mr Hidding said further tough on drugs initiatives would be announced by the State Liberal Team between now and the State election.


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