Prime Minister Tony Abbott has launched a national taskforce to combat the country’s escalating scourge of crystal methamphetamine, which he labelled “an absolute menace”.
The taskforce will be headed by former Victorian Police Commissioner Key Lay and will co-ordinate state and federal efforts against the consumption, manufacture and importation of the drug ice.
It will develop a national strategy against ice use and will deliver an interim report to Mr Abbott by the middle of the year.
Speaking in Canberra on Wednesday morning, Mr Abbott said ice use was now widespread across the country and was destroying lives, families and communities.
“As a citizen and as a parent, I am appalled at what is happening on our streets and in our homes,” Mr Abbott said.
“The statistics tell us that 400,000 Australians have used methamphetamine in any one year.
“There are massive quantities of this pernicious and evil drug coming into our country all the time.”
The announcement follows an ABC investigation which uncovered the hidden use of ice at a West Australian navy base, with one sailor dying for an overdose.
Mr Abbott said the revelation indicated “the scale of the problem and the urgent need to take action at every level”.
“This just reinforces my commitment and my government’s commitment to be absolutely unflinching in the struggle against this dreadful scourge.”
The prime minister said New South Wales Police figures indicated ice-related crimes had increased by 25 per cent in recent years.
Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said law enforcement was already doing everything it could against the ice epidemic, but it wasn’t enough.
“It is an unprecedented problem that we need to deal with in a different way, that’s why we’re announcing this taskforce today,” Mr Keenan said.
“Law enforcement is already doing everything it can to stop ice from hitting our streets but we are not going to be able to police our way out of this alone.”
Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash said her work in both regional and rural Australia showed there was an “increasingly obvious rapid escalation in use of this drug”.
“The government has been very concerned about this, I’ve personally been very concerned about this for some time now,” Ms Nash said.
Mr Abbott said the trouble with ice was that it was “far more potent, far more dangerous and far more addictive than any previous illicit drug”.