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National - ACT's failed record on fighting drugs

26 September 2003 Media release

National - ACT's failed record on fighting drugs

Progressive leader and Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton, says he is amazed at the cheek of the endless stream of press statements from National and ACT expressing mock outrage that more is not done to combat drug problems.

The reality is that those parties achieved less in dealing with drug problems during their last three-year term in government than has been achieved by the Labour Progressive coalition in the past 12 months alone.

"I became chairperson of the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy one year ago, in August 2002. Since then, I have overseen the reclassification of methamphetamine to a Class A drug which brought in tougher penalties for importers, manufacturers and suppliers and gave police wider intervention powers.

"I have released a Methamphetamine Action Plan which outlines various actions that are currently underway and seeks to involve the community in solutions to problems that, in fact, were emerging in 1998 and 1999 when a minority National government relied on ACT's votes to govern this country," Jim Anderton said.

Jim Anderton was responding to a press statement today from ACT accusing the coalition government of refusing to take action on methamphetamine.

"Increasing use and manufacture of amphetamines was reported in Western Europe in the early and mid 1990s. By the late 1990s, countries in the Asia Pacific region had also reported increased use and manufacture of amphetamines, primarily methamphetamine.

"With any epidemic early intervention and quick action at the outset are critical.

The early signals were there to see if only the parties in the last National-led coalition had been of a mind to see them and to make a pre-emptive strike which may well have headed off the critical situation that we now find ourselves in and which the government is fully committed to responding to," Jim Anderton said.

“Having failed themselves, when they were in government I challenge National and ACT to lend constructive support to the Coalition's action plan on methamphetamine because it is one of the most serious challenges New Zealand has faced in recent times.”

ENDS

BACKGROUND:

Increasing use and manufacture of amphetamines was reported in Western Europe in the early and mid 1990s. By the late 1990s, countries in our region, including Australia, Thailand, the Phillippines, Hong Kong and Japan had also reported increased use and manufacture of amphetamines, primarily methamphetamine.

With any epidemic early intervention is critical to any government strategy. The early signals were there to see if only the parties in and supporting the last National-led coalition had been of a mind to see them and to make a pre-emptive strike which may well have headed off the critical situation that we now find ourselves in.

By 1998 the government would have known that the use of amphetamine and methamphetamine in New Zealand was growing.

Police arrest statistics for consumers and providers in New Zealand show almost a doubling of arrests between 1998 and 1999.

The 1998 Auckland University Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit Drug Use Survey showed an increase in current users of amphetamines/methamphetamines from 0.8% in 1990 to 2.2% by 1998.

With Police and Customs seizures of amphetamine and methamphetamine soaring from less than one kilogram in 1998 to more than ten kilograms by 2000.

In 1998 a Ministerial Committee was formed to oversee the National Drug Policy’s implementation.

That committee only met three times before the election in 1999. Once, in 1998, and twice in 1999. Only one Minister was recorded as attending the second 1999 meeting. Under Jim Anderton's chair since last August, there have been six Ministerial Committee meetings on drug policy.

ENDS

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