News National PM pledges $300m to fight ice scourge

PM pledges $300m to fight ice scourge

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia cannot “arrest its way to success” and local health professionals will get most of the $300 million in new funding to tackle the ice scourge.

Backing all 38 recommendations of the National Ice Taskforce, the federal government is putting an extra $297 million towards drug treatment, after care, education and other community-based preventive measures.

The new funding is on top of the current $310 million for treatment services.

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“Responsibility for tackling this very complex problem should not be left up to police alone,” he said on Sunday.

Medical and public health groups have welcomed the government’s plan, which includes $241.5 million for local Primary Health Networks (PHN) and an additional $13 million towards subsidising addiction specialists.

Mr Turnbull says it takes advantage of “grassroots” bodies and the sourcing of local knowledge, including indigenous-specific treatment, while showing the government can be “agile” in its response to the ice problem.

“We believe the medical and healthcare professionals who are closest to the people with the problems, the people in need, are best able to determine how the money is spent,” he told reporters in Sydney.

The report found more than 200,000 Australians use ice – outstripping most other nations on a per capita basis.

malcolm turnbull
Malcolm Turnbull is eager to tackle Australia’s ice epidemic. Photo: Getty

Mr Turnbull said preventive measures would not come at the expense of a tough police approach.

“Strong law enforcement is absolutely critical to countering the illegal trafficking of ice, to detecting, arresting and prosecuting those who profit from making misery,” he said.

“But this very complex problem can’t be left to the police alone.”

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the high price Australians were willing to pay for ice was attracting interest from organised criminal gangs from around the world, including West Africa, China, Mexico and Iran.

As a result the government plans to increase co-operation with China through a joint AFP-Chinese narcotics control commission and the deployment of officers in Hong Kong and the UAE.

Labor called on the government to ensure any new funding was not taken away from existing drug and alcohol programs.

The Australian Medical Association echoed this view and called on the government to ensure PHNs were adequately resourced.

“The government has to be careful PHNs have the resources and ability to take up this task and also all the other services and tasks they’re asked to tackle,” said AMA president Professor Brian Owler.

Mental Health Australia and the Public Health Association of Australia also welcomed the proposals.

“This report provides our community with a pathway towards addressing what is a significant social problem, with clear linkages to mental health and wellbeing,” said MHA CEO Frank Quinlan.

PHAA CEO Michael Moore said the most vulnerable people in the lowest socio-economic areas were often the last to receive funding.

“PHNs have the ability to carry out effective population health planning and to direct the funds accordingly,” he said.

St Vincent’s Health Australia CEO Toby Hall said the government’s response had the potential to be a “watershed” in public health.


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