Policy Name May Not Represent Policy

I was listening to Triple J’s Hack program this week and hear someone, I think it was Ronin Sharkie, interviewing the Federal Minister for Aging, Christopher Pyne, who is the spokesperson for the Governments policy on drugs. The interview was in response to the announcement by the government that its Tough on Drugs campaign has had a positive effect on the drug problem in Australia.

Ronin challenged that the current policy shouldn’t be labeled as ToD as the government is engaged in many harm minimization strategies including schemes to help first time offenders get placed into detox facilities not jail and needle exchange programs. Chris’s retort seemed to come down to these concepts:

  • Australia is proud of its harm minimization strategies and will try to remain a world leader in such areas
  • The Tough on Drugs strategy is a success
  • There is nothing schizophrenic about the naming of the strategy
  • Complaining about the name is silly, would you prefer we stop the harm minimization programs?

Who is he trying to kid? The government has a middle of the road approach so it can justify its position to both sides of the argument. Older audiences can be told that the government is doing everything it can and is laying down the law, while telling younger audiences that its doing what it can to minimize the harm of drugs.

What the government fails to see is that a well advertised Tough on Drugs strategy harms the ability of the harm reduction programs to reduce harm. They are impotent if people are afraid of admitting they take drugs when the government forwards a 0 tolerance policy. This leads to people hesitating on ringing ambulances for friends who are clearly in trouble, how many lives does that claim?

Lastly, what portion of the lost $3bn wasted during to drugs is due to drugs that the government does have tolerance for: Alcohol and Nicotine?


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