Australia still shirking drug policy discourse

The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children, and we are all letting it happen

Senator Bob Carr (Foreign Affairs Minister), Mick Palmer (former Federal Police Chief), Nicholas Cowdery (former Director: NSW Public Prosecutions), Geoff Gallop (ex W.A. Premier)

On April 3rd this year Aussies woke to news of “the most significant challenge to drug laws in decades”, as reported by Fairfax media below. Or download MP3 [41sec]:

Interesting then that Bronwyn Bishop looks set to sit on the Front Bench of Australia’s next Federal Government. In 2007 Bishop chaired a House of Representatives Senate Inquiry into the impact of illicit drug use on families. Dreamed up by John Winston Howard to give an airing to the extreme right wing anti-drug movement whilst simultaneously heaping shame upon the brilliant minds driving the policy of Harm Minimisation, it was an appalling example of a predetermined agenda.

For many years prior it was axiomatic to those involved with illicit drug policy and the impact of organised crime that prohibition was a failure. The War on Drugs is a war on people and it surprised no-one that Bishop entitled her all singing all dancing moral panic final report “The Winnable War”. It was rejected by every D&A policy, funding and health service of any standing. Indeed by many more with pretty much no standing.

Drug Free Australia (DFA) and a range of conservative anti-drug lobbyists held it in high regard. Ann Bressington, who squeezes anti-vaccination, anti-fluoride, anti-Harm Minimisation and Festival of Light fundamentalism into her day, was delighted. Then again, Ann verbally coached a witness through his submission to say he “escaped harm minimisation, not addiction”.

Bishop had given succor to one of their fundamentalist favourites, and on the same day attempted to batter one of their sworn enemies for his devotion to health policy, science and evidence. Perhaps I shall recount one exchange with the G.P. who used naltrexone, sedatives and the bible in bringing about the death of 25 of his heroin dependent patients in 20 months [summary]. Now an “expert” in naltrexone related fatality with Drug Free Australia (I kid you not) he said then:

I was interested to discover that the actual historical site of Sodom and Gomorrah has recently been found in Israel. On the bottom right of this slide are pictures of sulphur balls that have been found there. So consequences matter, and they can destroy a civilisation quickly, as we saw with yesterday’s tsunami and so on.

This slide shows a tree with snakes, which to my mind is a lot of the stories that you hear from harm minimisation. Methadone, syringe giveaways, injecting rooms, medical cannabis, heroin trials all those are catered for by the same people. But, on the other side of the tree, you have all the downsides, the side effects, which are not talked about in this culture.

It is of extreme concern to me that medical science which is known and understood overseas is not understood and not talked about and given no airplay whatsoever in this culture.
These are old slides I made several years ago, charting a lot of these behaviours: this is condoms and the AIDS risk, charting the parallel between condoms and AIDS deaths.

Ms GEORGE (Senate committee member): Sorry, I do not understand. What are you saying – condom protection and AIDS deaths are correlated?
Dr Reece: Yes, condom sales and AIDS deaths. I am saying that there is a statistical association between the two.

Under Keeping Up The War On Drugs Bishop wrote in her report:

A significant amount of damage to families and the community has been avoided by the government’s uncompromising approach to the trafficking and use of illicit drugs. Drug industry elites who have repeatedly claimed that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed are simply wrong. […]

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and its partners have been highly successful in limiting the damage of illicit drugs in Australia. The number and weight of detections for selected illicit drugs are generally higher than before 2000…

Increasing drug seizures reflect increasing drug traffic. Increasing traffic reflects increasing and increasingly varied demand. Such demand indicates more use and we already knew more use was due to ineffective tactics globally. The snide term “drug industry elites” still has life in certain circles. Essentially it demeaned those who dealt in evidence alone and advised accordingly.

Australia endured the rejection of science by politicians for the very tenuous reason of hopefully securing votes. At the States and Territories health ministers’ conference in Cairns in 1997, the issue of a heroin trial – the latest step in Harm Reduction to show exciting success in Europe – was raised. Ultimately Michael Wooldridge, four states and the ACT voted for trials to begin. The result was 6-3 in favour.

Whilst credit is due for his continued funding of needle exchange programmes, Howard had not just a conservative eye but a retributive one. The success of Harm Minimisation under the previous government left him keen to change the essence of a policy that had seen Australia emerge as world leaders. Thus we copped his Tough On Drugs approach – a dismal failure. He immediately cancelled the trial on advice from his Evangelical adviser and first Chair of the ANCD, Major Brian Watters.

Watters was already making enemies in the ANCD itself, for merging his Salvation Army role with what should have been best practice. A Drug Free Australia Board member, Watters’ disdain for science and academics was manifest. He had spoken on an episode of Four Corners with John Howard:

WATTERS: I mean, the Salvation Army’s been doing it for 120 years. No good these academics telling us it doesn’t work.

HOWARD: And I feel in very safe hands, with the police on the one side and the Salvation Army on the other.

WATTERS: It’s the law and the prophets.

HOWARD: It’s the law and the prophets. That’s right.

So it continued. The “law and the prophets” looking after in-need Aussies. One of the most used phrases in the bible, it’s most significant aspect is that Jesus came to “fulfill” The Law and The Prophets. Then we got the faith healers and the purists. The Evangelists and the righteous. Anti-harm minimisation groups arose – DFA itself funded by [then] Health Minister, Tony Abbott. Others re-emerged keen to sink the conservative boot in to such sinful wickedness as clean needles, condoms and honest, open health education.

In 2007 The World Federation Against Drugs firmed it’s resolve in Sweden in striking mockery of the NGO Forum at the 50th Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Human Rights, Harm Reduction and Health Responses we heard from [then] UNODC Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, would be crucial to future global policy initiatives. Apparently not if conservatives could help it. Populated, perhaps unsurprisingly, by a number of biblical fundamentalists, evangelists and young earth creationists one might appreciate the uncompromising stance and anti-rights position that WFAD entertain.

On May 21st Mark Metherell reported:

DRUG Free Australia may not be a household name but its leaders claim a role in repelling further moves towards what they see as the evil of drug decriminalisation.

It fears the ”tough on drugs” regime of the Howard government is unravelling, with the abandonment of the school drug education strategy and declining use of community advertising campaigns. […]

‘Our view is that Australia’s illicit drug policy is too lenient, sending mixed messages to our youth,” [Jo Baxter] said.

Here’s a picture drawn by a child attending a DFA school education strategy (Hint: be drug free, go to heaven). Interestingly the Education Department in S.A. has a different view to Baxter on the matter. That article mentions a member of Youth for a Drug Free Australia, who is also head of The Recovered Drug Users League SA, Ryan Hidden.

He just happens to be the chap Ann Bressington coached to lie to the House of Representatives. But later Jo had him chatting to kiddies in school against Education Department instructions. A few weeks earlier he chose to dob in tobacconists the very day after Ann Bressington’s “bong ban” came into force.

Now… where did I read “mixed messages”?

Jo Baxter is Executive Officer of Drug Free Australia, Spokesperson for the S.A. “campus” of the evangelist driven Delgarno Institute is also vice-president of the World Federation Against Drugs. If you want an attack on human rights driven policy in Australia, Drug Free Australia is the group. If you want a “Heads Up People!” attack on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose main report also concludes prohibition has failed, the Delgaro Institute is the place.

But if you want to read an attack on the host of eminent Australians who produced the report raised in Parliament last April 3rd, Jo Baxter will even pop on her WFAD V.P. hat. So what do we get? Labelling the report compiled by 24 former senior state and federal politicians, experts in drug policy and public health, young people, a leading businessman, legal and former law enforcement officers, as “lacking substance” Jo begins:

The so-called ‘high level’ report on illicit drugs, suggesting that decriminalisation across the board, will solve Australia’s drug problems, lacks sound scientific basis and credibility and, as such should be discounted. The following a (sic) just some of the reasons:

First, it is not the ‘War on Drugs’ that has failed, but rather, it’s the failure of Australia’s Illicit Drugs Policy to satisfactorily address primary prevention.

For over 25 years Australians have endured a policy of Harm Minimisation, which has left a ‘train wreck’ in families and communities across the nation. […]

They have failed to recognised that, between 2000 and 2006, Australia had a Tough on Drugs Strategyand our illicit drug use rates dropped significantly. The trend is now turning around. […]

Which is it I wonder? A Harm Minimisation train wreck or a Tough on Drugs victory? Harm Minimisation arrested the spread of HIV, Hepatitis B and harmful drug using practices. The surge in heroin use is well documented as due to immigration of a S.E. Asian demographic able to import large quantities and sell at reduced rates. If prohibition was working initially this would not have happened.

Instead criminal cartels blossomed and later shifted to manufacturing their own product indoors. If prohibition worked that would never have happened. It seems to me like Tough On Drugs actually oversaw the rise of many new classes of drugs and an actual shift in the drug using habits of our community more in line with criminal profit.

As always Harm Minimisation and Reduction have functioned to manage the fallout from prohibition’s failure.

Effectively Jo’s article is a repeat of what the Drug Free Australia mantra has been, no matter what the title, debate, paper or conference. A synopsis of what Bronwyn Bishop concocted in 2007. A reflection on their bogus research on Supervised Injecting Facilities, Needle Syringe Programmes, Medicinal Cannabinoid research and so on.

The global Drug Free movement is to illicit drug policy in the community, what creationism is to evolution in the science curriculum.

Given the demonstrable failures of prohibition, we are still reticent to discuss this issue vociferously. Clearly it is a topic that can be easily misinterpreted, accidentally misrepresented or used to cast mischievous accusations toward those who mount firm evidence backed arguments. Much of the confusion stems from the fear that drug use under relaxed laws will equate to greater use. Often this is expressed as if one believes use will be compulsory.

Yet needle provision did not lead to increased use. The return on investment is four dollars for every one dollar invested. As needles are returned potential virus reserves are removed from the community. Users reciprocate with services learning to manage health and exploit opportunity to cease using. New users are resourced and educated to develop the means to never risk cross infection. The entire community benefits and vital dollars are not spent dealing with preventable problems.

Still, the false belief that use is encouraged this way persists in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Similarly the notion of deregulation is seen as a “free for all”, quite bizarrely likened to alcohol. Perhaps understandably challenges to drug prohibition evoke images of the end of alcohol prohibition. With this comparison comes the assumption all drugs will be readily available and an integral part of culture. Businesses will provide and houses will be stocked. The roads will be full of talkative, super-horny, hallucinating, dozing, dancing, slurring and very hungry drivers heading for pizza.

No. The only relationship to alcohol prohibition will be the removal of the millions of Al Capone types and the violence, intimidation, corruption, ruined families and poisoned customers that inevitably evolve. The failure of prohibition can be seen in a top down, if not linear fashion. Yet the way in which it is finally dismantled is in my mind not completely predictable and remains a complex bottom up venture to be managed with flexibility.

Evidence across the world shows use drops or remains stable with relaxed laws. The Portuguese example has presented in over a decade, remarkable success. The advantages of removing extensive punitive measures and simple stigma become manifest in a few short years. Legal resources freed from the waste of hassling petty users are brought to bear on serious crime. Users, freed from the fear of severe prosecution and shame become proactive in seeking help.

Potential users become a smaller market as drugs become controlled by authorities and subject to medical oversight – not criminal endeavour. More so, the opportunity to get ones life back on track is a reality that provides huge motivation to avoid drug use and experimentation. Presently in Australia, by the time users need substantial help they may be alienated from society, ashamed, angry and overwhelmed by the prospect of “perhaps” getting a decent life back under way.

Options used to mange illicit drug use are well explained in the Australia 21 Report:

  • Decriminalisation means specified proscribed behaviour is removed from the criminal law and is dealt with under the civil law.
  • De-penalisation means reducing the severity of penalties.
  • Legalisation means that the specified forms of behaviour are no longer offenses dealt with by the law.
  • Regulation means establishing a strictly controlled legal market for drugs as is the case with pharmaceutical drugs, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.

Deconstructing prohibition is not a licence to take drugs. It is a means to remove lucrative profits from criminals and steer in-need and at-risk Aussies toward a healthier and more hopeful future. Those able to see a way out of the present mess all hold a somewhat unique view. No one person holds the solution, but certainly as experts and visionaries, groups such as the Australia 21 Board are urgently needed to begin the process of improving Australian lives and saving tax payer dollars.

400 Aussies die from drug related causes annually and countless others suffer a range of related harm that varies from mild to severe interpersonal conflict, financial tragedy or horrific violence. Lives are cropped of potential and under the present system valuable, talented and vital community members slowly withdraw from society even years after they have ceased to use any drugs.

Stopping us from turning this mess around is the movement I opened this article with. Whether it’s same sex marriage, being an atheist or removing the stigma from elicit drugs a vocal and well organised minority conclude that they can do any and everything to impose their own moral values on the rest of the society. In effect however, knowing that they cannot successfully do this the outcome is merely to impede progress to equality and thus limit the freedom of others.

Hence we cannot really have this discussion without at some point acknowledging it isn’t resisted just on philosophical grounds. The continuance of the war on people and the fruitless prohibition of illicit drugs, regardless of means used, is the single aim of those who today are seen attacking Harm Minimisation and Harm Reduction.

Therein lies the problem. Whilst arguments are akin to anti-vaccination rhetoric: repetitive, evidence free, conspiratorial, personal and peppered with linking all related ills to the present policy, in this case conservatives do have political sway. Thus full and open discourse regarding the retrieval of control from organised crime must include the reality that the anti-drug movement is guilty in it’s own way of inflicting suffering, corruption and death on our nation.

More so, they know this well. The bulk of attacks on Harm Reduction revolve around creating the pseudoscience and pathological theories to argue HIV has not been controlled by reducing the personal exchange of blood and body fluids. Despite the exquisite correlation between Harm Reduction absence and HIV presence across the globe it is still argued that HR “enables” drug use, thus causes all negatives that go with it.

Discourse is poor because the reality is that no government would dream of even broaching the subject for fear of alienating the conservative vote. Dr. Reece states above that condom use parallels AIDS deaths and God’s wrath will follow Harm Reduction measures as a “consequence”. Rhetoric fed to parliamentarians about Injecting Facilities is nowhere near as absurd, looks genuine to the untrained eye and can influence decisions. We should expect the same polish in defence of prohibition.

Changes in equal rights now look set to take years. The public is well versed in who the bigots are in matters of marriage, abortion and euthanasia. For the public to be prepared to take on a gradual change in their world view as it pertains to drug use and abuse, those truly dedicated to abolishing prohibition need to expose the bigots and the saboteurs also. And yes, it may be that simply opening channels of discussion will be enough to do this.

The evidence is irrefutable. Prohibition has failed and it is killing Australians. We don’t just need discussion on the necessity for change. We need discussion on why there is as yet no change and instead a persistent silence. Every report on this issue and every report on Harm Minimisation success is attacked by anti-drug lobbyists such as Drug Free Australia.

When we do expand the discussion we must be prepared to lay the blame at their door.

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Religious Instruction brings no Joy to Victorian public schools

What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost… What a commandment: Make disciples… Let’s go for it!

Evonne Paddison, CEO of ACCESS Ministries

Scott Hedges of Fairness In Religions In School chats to Doug Pollard from Joy FM’s Rainbow Report.

In a comprehensive chat they cover the FIRIS campaign, Special Religious Instruction (SRI), legislation, indoctrination in public schools, religious discrimination and the upcoming VCAT challenge. This alleges that the Education Minister’s interpretation of legislation is a violation of the Equal Opportunity Act leading to compulsory segregation based on attendance to SRI.

Scott touches on a point close to one of my own issues with government funding of religious organisations. That faith based welfare is vastly different to faith based practices. The former poised to benefit all, the latter designed to expand a belief system.

In this case we can compare the altruistic work done by religious welfare organisations to the intentional, calculated conversion of primary school children, both at taxpayer expense.

FIRIS parent Scott Hedges interviewed on Joy FM

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ACCESS Ministries: Back to religious discrimination in Victoria

FIRIS Billboard hits on religious discrimination in schoolsStory here

Don’t be fooled by ACCESS ministries’ attempt to rewrite history and obfuscate their intention.

Victoria’s legislation provides for public school education about all religions. Yet this privilege has been usurped by a scheme to “save children” through conversion to Christianity.

In a multi-faith, multi-ethnic, secular community the choice of any religion or of no religion should be the right of every family. Not a struggle against a dominant force.

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

In her own words… again: Evonne Paddison seeks to rewrite history

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The problem with Margaret Court

When God came to visit Margaret Court as she scrubbed the dishes one night and told her to “go forth” and set up a church one could guess it would all end in tears one day.

A woman of incredulous beliefs, hypocrisy, charlatanism and greed she preaches a destructive supernatural creed that is considered heresy by mainstream Christendom. It is quite true that Margaret Court persecutes minority groups with the God given “love” she has for them.

Single mothers, drug users, Muslims, non Liberal voters and homosexuals all cop a holy spray. It’s no secret that protestors are at the Australian Open today to peacefully voice what is really long overdue opposition to one of Australia’s most legendary bigots. Although the claim is being made that she doesn’t cash in one her past life in tennis the truth is that she does.

One of the creepiest is messing with young school kids minds by handing out imitation Wimbledon trophy trays to those judged by the group of which she is patron, Creationist lobbyists, Drug Free Australia to have the most biblical anti-drug message. That they are anti-equality, anti-safe sex and safe drug use hence a threat to public health is a message students aren’t told.

Margaret’s journey from tennis “legend”, to psychological wreck to auditory hallucination as Jesus’ private interlocutor had been striking. Plunged to the depths of depression when adoring cheers were finally silenced Margaret could see no way forward. As psychosis lapped at the edges of her consciousness and she lay bedridden with a broken mind, Margaret made a life changing decision. She found a bible and read it from front to back, believing every word.

At about the same time Margaret was claiming she had a torn heart valve. She got hold of an anatomy book, opened it at the page depicting a heart and laid it on the hallway table. Every time she passed she willed herself with the healing power of God that this was her “perfect heart”. Not long after she reported a miraculously repaired heart valve.

Clearly, no longer in Kansas so to speak, Margaret needed help. Proper, long term clinical help. It never came. Exactly what role was played by husband Barry in creating the new Margaret Court is not clear. I have every sympathy for a chap who believed his wife was spiritually touched after such a gruesome ordeal. However the quality of associates she now chose to further her “instructions” left much to be desired.

Margaret knocked over her bible “studies” in about a year at Rhema Bible College, thus becomming a pastor. Next a hefty payment to Oral Roberts University provided her with a dodgy doctorate as a Word of Faith adherent. Word of Faith attracts extreme condemnation from mainstream Christians as it teaches accumulation of material goods and wealth is itself a path to enlightenment: Economic Materialism. Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin are well known Word of Faith profiteers.

It’s a blend of Christian Science, New Age Mysticism, Christianity and Gnosticism. it’s basic foundation is that it deifies humans and diminishes God. Word of Faith practitioners believe they wield the power of God through speech – hence the name – and that God must serve them:

And they believe that they have the same power as God, to create and destroy by speaking using “the Word of Faith.” And with their prosperity doctrine, they believe that their pleasures should be filled and they should be served by God on earth (making them gods on earth).

Court herself has dangled this threat of speaking destruction to punish Australia for failing to re-elect John Howard through united prayer in 2007. In a rare moment of lucidity, Court graciously admitted it was just a reminder and when it came to unleashing Divine Power through speech, “He (God) is Sovereign”.

Yet by this time Court was a fierce Christian Zionist, enemy of Islam and close friend of Danny Nalliah from Catch The Fire Ministries. Danny is well known for blaming the February 2009 Black Saturday bush fires on divine punishment for the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria, and for his personal visit from Jesus to confirm Howard would win the 2007 election.

She wrote on his website in December 2007:

This man stood up for the Body of Christ against the vilification law; he was persecuted by many in the Body of Christ for his stand, but he pushed through for you and me so that we still have that freedom to openly share Jesus Christ.

From the Prophetic office he gave direction to the Church for our Nation, but the church did not take heed to what he had said – that the Body of Christ unite in prayer and action.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I believe we are at a very pivotal time for our nation and for the church.

We had righteous leaders in Mr Howard and Mr Costello and how much easier it is for the church to fulfill the destiny spiritually when you have God fearing men at the top leading a Nation.  Now you have a Prime Minister who says, “that public servants will advise me, not God” to lead our Nation.  (Release:  Southern Cross Broadcasting in Melbourne, Nov 30 2007)

I was praying and God showed me we have allowed a religious spirit to come back over our Nation. God always gives me Numbers 14 for this Nation where Moses repented on behalf of the people; we need to repent on behalf of the church.  The government of this nation is on our shoulders (Isaiah 9:6) – we govern in the spirit; but a lot of the church is looking at man instead of God (Matthew 6:24-33)

I love the body of Christ; what a powerful army when we stand united together in prayer and Word. Let’s stand together for God to manifest Himself; believing and proclaiming that we are a righteous Nation, a God-fearing Nation and that His hand is on our Nation.

♠ – The “Body of Christ” is a term for collective Christians. ♣ – The “Prophetic Office” is the term used to describe a personal visit with Jesus or God.

Word of Faithers also deny a belief in The Trinity and the traditional story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Probably finalised by Kenneth Hagin their story of Jesus’ demise is that he was crucified and died. From there he went to hell and was tortured by demons. A bit of a whimp he yelled and screamed for help until the arch-angel Gabriel swooped into hell, defeated the demons and saved Jesus’ skin.

All offences together have earned them the dubious honour of being known as heretics throughout Christendom. Their misinterpretation of the bible is legendary. Court recently said that same sex marriage would, “legitimise what God calls abominable sexual practices”.

This is utter nonsense. She is referring to Leviticus, chapter 18 verse 22:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination

We know that the book of Leviticus could not have been “written by Moses” as the defence goes. And as a defence it is demonstrably absurd noting that Moses was big on genocide, slavery and the kidnapping of virgins. Whilst the origin of some material is lost in antiquity the notion of the book as “written by Moses” began sometime in the 1st century. Leviticus itself continued to be modified up until around 540-330 BCE.

This is the Persian Era and may offer some insight into why the final book is a strict book of complex rules, much like Sharia law. I’m not suggesting it is Islamic, merely that the notion of rules instructing humans in the manner of living was popular in the middle east for centuries. Leviticus is 27 chapters of rules on festivals, eating, sacrifice, sexual behaviour, cleanliness, judgement and more.

Scholars are quick to point out that the tribes-people who wrote chapter 18 on sexual behaviour were known to use male anal rape as a means in war and of civilised punishment. Homosexuality was also accepted and legal. Not only is the meaning of Leviticus 18:22 lost in translation and time, a glaring absence is that of reference to gay women.

Thus it is not an instruction forbidding homosexuality. The most widely accepted definition is that it pertains to procreation. The word “abomination” in this sense relies upon it’s meaning as a violation of law. A violation of the tribal rule (necessity) to procreate. This was the explanation I heard, with references, in a lecture from a real biblical scholar and I give it credence over that of a megalomaniac and bigot like Margaret Court.

Today Court runs Victory Life Centre in Perth piping TVangelism to over 30 South East Asian locations, making the proverbial fortune. Still patron of Drug Free Australia she may be proud that they have caused enormous damage to children, families, education, public health and illicit drug policy. There are many reasons why this disturbed ex-tennis player should be called out for the antisocial opportunist that she is.

Giving a legitimate face to archaic homophobic views based on ignorance is something Australians should resist.

Drawing from a child indoctrinated by Drug Free Australia. The knife handle reads, "John 10:10" - The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and life to the full.

Be Drug Free And You Will Be With Me, says God

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