VICTORIA’S Police Minister Wade Noonan has defended the state government’s perceived law-and-order approach to fighting the ice crisis, saying a “holistic approach” will follow.
Whether or not that will include more spending on rehabilitation and education will depend on the action plan from a 16-member taskforce.
“This is not a problem we are going to arrest our way out of ... this is an all-of-government and all-of-community problem,” Mr Noonan said, pointing to the taskforce’s inclusion of several drug and alcohol agencies.
The government has come under some criticism this week after announcing the first part of its plan to tackle the drug, including tough new penalties and $15 million on drug buses and mobile testing.
Ovens Valley MP Tim McCurdy said it was “disappointing” and a “far cry” from the recommendations of the previous Coalition government’s parliamentary inquiry into the drug, which had called for a bigger focus on rehab and education.
His comments were largely backed by chief executive of drug rehab service Odyssey House, Stefan Gruenert, and the Mt Beauty mother of an ice addict, Kerryn Johnston, who gave evidence of her daughter’s addicition to the inquiry.
But Mr Noonan said the taskforce — which includes leading youth psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association executive Sam Biondo, and representatives from the Salvation Army, the Penington Institue and Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Centre — would use the two-volume inquiry report to guide its response.
“These people are leaders in their professions and they will sit around the table with senior ministers to tackle this in a holistic way,” he said.
“It won’t be resolved in thought-bubbles or a piecemeal way ... this is a problem that will need a balanced approach that focuses clearly on the demand side and tries with all its might to ensure people don’t take to ice and, if they do, they get support.”
Mr Noonan said in the past four years, recorded drug offences in Victoria had had “unprecedented growth”, jumping from 14,500 in 2009-10 to more than 25,000 now — an “extraordinarily large problem for our government to inherit”, he said.
He would not say whether or not the taskforce’s “action plan” would include more funding for rehabilitation but reiterated: “The challenge is understood, there’s no doubt about that, and we’re not under-estimating for a moment the size of it.”