The Australian government is rolling out a new $300 million package dedicated to tackling the ice epidemic after the final National Ice Taskforce report was released yesterday.
According to the report, “Australia uses more methamphetamine than almost any other country” with more than 200,000 Australians estimated to be users of the crystalline form of methamphetamine, more commonly known as “ice”.
The National Ice Taskforce report has made 38 recommendations across five key action areas: support for families, communities and frontline workers, target prevention, tailoring of services and support, strengthening of law enforcement and improved governance and better evidence.
The report by the national taskforce reveals that ice is currently one of the most widely used illicit drug in Australia behind cannabis and ecstasy with the greatest number of users from Western Australia, followed by South Australia.
The median street price of a gram of ice in Australia is currently $675, ahead of the US at $268 and Singapore at $153. A kilo of ice in Australia is expected to cost between $160,000 and $265,000.
The increasing use of ice can be seen in the surge of domestic and border seizures which grew nearly 60 times between 2010 and 2014.
The supply of ice has grown so quickly that it made up 79 per cent of the weight of amphetamine-type stimulants seized at the Australian border in 2013-14, according to the report.
In response to the findings of the report, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, minister for justice Michael Keenan and minister for rural health Fiona Nash announced that the federal government would invest nearly $300 million over the next four years into prevention strategies, community engagement, education and after care to curb the the use of ice, whose supply and demand has increased significantly since 2010.
“Whilst we are tackling supply, if demand still exists at such a record rate, it is going to be impossible for law enforcement to retain control of supply,” Keenan told reporters.
“The best thing we can do to help our law enforcement agencies is to stop people using it in the first place.”
The newly introduced comprehensive package will focus on reducing the demand for ice and the harms caused by the drug in addition to disrupting supply.
Here’s a breakdown of the government’s ice package in response to the findings below:
- $241.5 million to be invested through the 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs), which will use their local knowledge to boost the alcohol and other drug treatment sector and reduce demand for ice.
- An additional $13 million to introduce new MBS items for Addiction Medicine Specialists to increase the availability of treatment.
- An additional $24.9 million to help families and communities by providing the resources, information and support they need to respond to ice.
- An additional $18.8 million to establish better research, evidence and guidelines on ice, including a new Centre for Clinical Excellence for Emerging Drugs of Concern.
The new spending measures follow recent attempts by the federal government over the past year to quell the rising number of ice users.
Earlier in August, former prime minister began established a “dob in a drug dealer” hotline to report drug dealers to police after describing ice as “the worst drug scrounge that Australia has faced”.
In addition, the federal government began using $18 million of criminal proceeds to strengthen the national drug taskforce and help the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) fight the ice epidemic.
The National Ice Taskforce, which was established by the federal government in April 2014, is currently being led by former Chief Police Commissioner of Victoria Police, Ken Lay.
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