Sharman Stone pushes dual-state drug unit

A CROSS-border investigation unit in Albury-Wodonga may improve drug detection and help curb the trade of methamphetamine, according to Federal Liberal MP and co-chairwoman of a national parliamentary drug law reform group, Sharman Stone.

Dr Stone was speaking ahead of Monday’s public hearing in Wodonga which is part of a state parliamentary inquiry into methamphetamine and the drug’s prevalence across Victoria.

She said drug traffickers paid no heed to state borders and investigations into the supply of ice should reflect that.

Among those making submissions to the inquiry committee on Monday will be police officers who are expected to speak to the benefits of increased cross-border cooperation.

The inquiry committee comprises MPs Simon Ramsay, Tim McCurdy, Ben Carroll, Johan Scheffer and David Southwick, who have travelled across the state during the past four months to hearings at centres including Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Traralgon.

“There is no respect paid to the border in the movement of drugs,” Dr Stone said.

“It’s ridiculous to have two law enforcement agencies stopped once they reach the border.”

Dr Stone said the parliamentary inquiry was one of the most important to reach northern Victoria.

“I have parents who come to me saying ‘we need help, what do we do, we don’t know where to go, it’s ruining our lives’,” she said.

“I’ve met so many people in terrible trouble.

“Why don’t we have more policing efforts to make it less accessible?”

Dr Stone called for a dedicated drug unit focused on regional areas and more detox facilities in the country.

Member for Benambra Bill Tilley said he welco- med any federal assistance to fund dedicated rural taskforces or cross-border units, while member for Albury Greg Aplin said if the inquiry heard greater co-operation was needed between the two states, he would support it.

“I’d be very surprised if police don’t already have substantial co-operation on drugs,” Mr Aplin said.

“If it’s shown there’s room for greater improvement, I’d be joining that chorus.”

North East Superintendent Paul O’Halloran said he would not comment ahead of the inquiry while Albury Superintendent Beth Stirton said the two stations already worked together closely.

“I don’t know that a joint unit would be the answer to it all because there are a lot of jurisdictional issues,” Supt Stirton said.

“I’m sure the Victorian inquiry couldn’t discount the Border issue, however, at the end of the day we’re still stuck to the state legislation until they make federal legislation that makes it easier to work together.”

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