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Australia's drugs war praised in narcotics report

Australia's war on drugs praised in global narcotics report

Australia's unrelenting war on illicit drugs, in particular heroin, have been praised in the 2003 Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said today.

The INCB has noted Australia's success in stopping the trafficking of illicit drugs as a result of its tough border protection strategies, especially the major joint operations by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Customs Service.

"Australians are already aware that the extra resources provided by the Government to the hard-working men and women of our law enforcement agencies have resulted in a massive reduction in the supply of illicit drugs to the Australian market," Senator Ellison said.

"It is very pleasing that Australia's efforts are now being recognised and praised internationally."

The INCB report noted:

"Heroin abuse in Australia has declined since 2001, mainly due to successful interdiction activities at its borders and co-operation with national authorities in South-East Asia and the resultant shortage of supply";

"Successful joint operations involving the AFP and police authorities from outside of Oceania, such as Argentina, Malaysia and Taiwan resulted in major seizures of heroin, cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy), as well as precursors, and the arrests of many drug traffickers";

"The Board welcomes the key role played by the AFP and the New Zealand Police in terms of regional technical assistance. The police and customs of Australia and Papua New Guinea continue to participate in joint border patrols."

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The Howard Government has invested more than $1 billion in the Tough on Drugs strategy which tackles illicit drug use on three fronts: health, education and law enforcement. This additional funding and tough border controls have resulted in a heroin shortage since late 2000, which has led to a rise in prices and a fall in the purity of heroin available on Australia's streets.

According to the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, there are now 23 per cent fewer Australians using illicit drugs, and since the launch of Tough on Drugs Australia's law enforcement agencies have stopped more than nine tonnes of serious illicit drugs from reaching Australian streets.

"Sadly, these very positive results are being undermined by the operation of a heroin injecting room in Sydney, which is heavily criticized in the INCB report," Senator Ellison said.

"The Government is totally opposed to heroin injecting rooms. The Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government's opposition in late 2003 in a letter to each State and Territory leader outlining his ongoing concerns.

"However, the Labor Party plans to "support and promote" heroin injecting rooms. Australia is recognised as a world leader in reducing the supply of illicit drugs and the damage they cause, yet Labor wants to throw in the towel on drugs with a soft and defeatist approach. This is inexcusable."

The INCB report will be discussed by an Australian delegation to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on 15 March.

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