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National-Led Govts Missed Opportunity To Act On P

7 October 2003

Hon Jim Anderton MP, Progressive Party Leader

National-led governments missed an important opportunity in the late 1990s to act quickly to tackle the evidence all around them of an increasing use and manufacture of amphetamine, primarily methamphetamine, Progressive Party leader, Jim Anderton, said today.

"The increasing use and manufacture of amphetamine, primarily methamphetamine, was reported by the late 1990s in the Asia Pacific region and there was shown to be a significant increase of users of amphetamines by that time but no pre-emptive strategy was put in place by the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy under the National-led government.

"Unfortunately, that Committee, during the period of chaotic National-led coalitions that variously involved United, NZ First and supported by ACT, did very little to head off the scourge of methmaphetamine that this government has been left to face.

"Officials tell me that the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy only met once in 1998 and only twice in 1999. The second time it met in 1999 only one Minister showed up, compared with the very regular meetings I have chaired this year where typically between one-third and a quarter of the Cabinet turns up full of plans about what needs to be done.

"This is a serious coalition and its actions and planning put the last center-right coalition to utter shame for their philosophy of hands off inaction," Jim Anderton said.

Since becoming Chair of that Committee in the second half of last year, Jim Anderton has overseen the implementation of the Methmaphetamine Action Plan which has an additional $8.6 million in this year's budget for Police and Customs' initiatives as well as $2.55 million for the development of community action programmes,

Methamphetamine has been reclassified as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act so that anyone convicted of importing, manufacturing or supplying the drug now faces up to life imprisonment. The Committee has also overseen protocols for the police and pharmacies to limit the domestic supply of precursor chemicals such as ephedrine and pseudoephdrine.

"The Labour Progressive coalition this year also classified 3 other similar types of drugs. These drugs were not and are not a substantial problem in this country at this time but the coalition wants to act fast to preempt the possibility that these other drugs would gain a foothold here. We did not hesitate to look ahead because this coalition recognized the danger and the necessity of dealing with all dangerous drugs before they get to the scale that methmaphetamine is today.

http:// www.progressive.org.nz

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