26 March 2012

Launch of Report on Illicit Drugs Policy

On Tuesday 31 January 2012 Australia21 convened a roundtable hosted by Sydney University to consider the following question:

What are the likely costs and benefits of a change in Australia’s current policy on illicit drugs?

The decision to convene this roundtable was prompted by the June 2011 release of the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (downloadable from here), which definitively concluded that the 40 years old global war on drugs has failed and recommended, inter alia, that governments be encouraged to experiment with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.

Prior to the roundtable Australia21 commissioned a discussion paper by Mr David McDonald, a social research consultant at the Australian National University who specialises in issues at the boundary where public health issues and the criminal law intersect.  Mr McDonald’s paper canvassed the issues raised by the Global Commission Report and set them in an Australian context, addressing issues such as the extent and nature of drug availability and use in Australia, the principal sources of drug related harm in Australia, and the core challenges Australia faces to day in relation to drug policy.

We were fortunate to be able to bring together an extraordinarily high level and diversified group from across the political spectrum to consider this important and sensitive topic.  In alphabetical order the participants were:

Mr Paul Barratt AO
Chair Australia21 and former Secretary, Department of Defence and Department of Primary Industries and Energy

Hon Dr Peter Baume AC
Former Chancellor Australian National University; Federal Senator and Health Minister in the Coalition Government led by Malcolm Fraser

Mr Chris Berg
Research Fellow, Institute of Public Affairs, and  newspaper columnist

Mr Bill Bush
Retired International Lawyer and Member of Families and Friends for Drug Reform

Hon Bob Carr AC
Former Premier of NSW

Hon Kate Carnell AO
Former Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory

Professor Nicholas Cowdery AM, QC
Former Director of Public Prosecutions, NSW

Professor Bob Douglas AO (Chair)
Former Director, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University; Director Australia21

Hon Professor Geoff Gallop AC
Former Premier of Western Australia

Professor Margaret Hamilton AO
Formerly Founding Director of Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Center Victoria, Current Drug Policy Advisor

Mr Brian McConnell
President, Families and Friends for Drug Reform

Ms Marion McConnell
Parent of a son who lost his life to a heroin overdose

Mr David McDonald
Social Research Consultant

Mr Tom Merrett
Second Year University Student, University of Adelaide

Hon Professor Michael Moore
Executive Officer, Public Health Association of Australia and former ACT Health Minister

Ms Vivienne Moxham-Hall
Arts and Science Graduate and Student Representative Councillor, University of Sydney

Mr Mick Palmer, AO, APM
Former Commissioner, Australian Federal Police

Professor Alison Ritter
Director Drug Policy Modeling Program
University of New South Wales

Professor Robin Room
Drug policy researcher and current Director, Turning Point, Victoria

Ms Lyn Stephens
Executive Officer, Australia21

Mr Nick Stump
Former mining industry executive, Director Australia21, Chair Construction Industry Advisory Board on Drugs in the Workplace

Dr Alex Wodak AM
President Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and Former President, International Harm Reduction Association

Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge
Former Federal Minister for Health in the Coalition Government led by John Howard

The report of the roundtable is now at the printers, and it will be launched by roundtable participant Nicholas Cowdery QC, former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, in a Committee Room in Parliament House, Canberra, at 10.00 am for 10.30 am on Tuesday 3 April.

Other roundtable participants at the launch will be Paul Barratt, Chris Berg, Bob Douglas, Brian and Marion McConnell, David McDonald, Mick Palmer and Alex Wodak.

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