PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra:
Australia is in the midst of an ice epidemic. Every state and local government is affected, with the devastating effects of ice destroying young people and families across the country.
Unfortunately the Knox municipality, which coincides broadly with the boundaries of my electorate of Aston, is not immune. In fact Knox has become an ice hot spot, with drug offences skyrocketing over the last five years.
Australia wide the rate of ice use as the main form of drug among amphetamine users has doubled from 22 per cent in 2010 to 50 per cent now. Those using ice are doing it more frequently. The number of people using it at least monthly doubled from 12 per cent in 2010 to 25 per cent in 2013—around 90,000 Australians aged 14 and over. This is an epidemic which we must get on top of.
In the middle of July, I organised a local public forum on ice in Rowville and the Knox police, together with local social and health workers and the federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, heard from over 140 concerned local residents about the effects of ice.
Many who attended were directly affected by the spread of ice through family members who are currently addicts or recovering addicts. Many others were parents concerned about what might happen to their young children if the spread of ice continues. The message from residents was clear: we must tackle this epidemic head-on.
Locally, I am currently putting together the Aston Ice Report, which is designed to outline what Knox residents believe is the best course of action to tackle ice locally and nationally. This incorporates views from the public forum as well as from my Facebook page, emails and meetings that I have had.
Some of the key themes which are coming through include: firstly, focusing on early prevention, which involves better education, some hard-hitting public campaigns, similar to the anti-smoking campaigns, and aiming for cultural change around drug use; secondly, tackling both the supply and the demand side of ice through stronger penalties for users, manufacturers and suppliers, and boosting police services on the ground; and, thirdly, additional funding for rehabilitation services to help people get off drugs.
Nationally, as you would be aware, the government is taking a variety of steps to tackle ice. Just yesterday the Prime Minister announced $1 million to establish a national Dob in a Dealer campaign. We also announced a boost to the crime fighting capabilities of the Australian Crime Commission, with an additional $18 million funded from the proceeds of crime.
Last week the parliament passed legislation to crack down on middlemen and drug couriers bringing precursors into the country to make ice.
We all know ice is at epidemic levels in Victoria and in the nation and is increasingly a problem in our community.