For over half a century our governments have relied heavily on law enforcement to curb the drug trade and reduce drug use. The results, I suggest, speak for themselves. Despite huge funding, ever increasing levels of police effectiveness and genuine effort, and the imposition of very lengthy prison terms for serious drug offences, the drug trade has just kept getting bigger, more dangerous and more prosperous.
The simple over-riding fact is, with the best intentions in the world, as former Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said when head of then PM Abbott’s Ice Task Force, we cannot arrest and imprison our way out of our present dilemma. We must be prepared to try new ideas and approaches. I am not suggesting “going soft” on drugs but rather “getting smarter” about drugs. Adopting a safer, saner approach which provides some control over the currently totally uncontrolled illicit drug marketplace. It is about achieving better, safer, more humane outcomes.
If we are going to have a zero tolerance approach it should be a zero tolerance to the needless loss of any young Australian’s life. It is not about giving the green light to drug use either, but rather shining a light on protecting people’s lives and supporting people in need.
– Mick Palmer is a former Australian federal police commissioner.