Almost three years after a special commission report made recommendations to tackle the hold of meth on regional NSW, the Perrottet government has committed $500 million to combat the scourge.
In a long-awaited response to the 109 recommendations, Premier Dominic Perrottet announced $358 million would be spent to close gaps in the system and improve outcomes.
Pre-court drug diversions for low level offences will be introduced for people without prior convictions, giving people a chance to undertake courses and counselling rather than go through the courts.
More than $141 million will be allocated for justice system initiatives aiming to address the underlying causes of drug use and the impact it has on other offending (pictured, a drug user)
More than $141 million will be allocated for justice system initiatives aiming to address the underlying causes of drug use and the impact it has on other offending.
The $10.8 million inquiry received more than 250 submissions and was handed down in January 2020.
The government quickly rejected a number of recommendations such as decriminalising drugs, introducing pill testing and eradicating drug dogs, but the final response did not come until Wednesday.
People who use drugs will have more opportunities to get help before they end up in jail, but there is still ‘zero tolerance for drugs’.
Some of the special commission’s recommendations were scrapped, including decriminalising drugs and getting rid of drug dogs (pictured, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet on Wednesday)
Mr Perrottet said he did not believe in decriminalisation, Police Minister Paul Toole said the government’s response was ‘not about going soft on drugs’ and Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the force would target ‘those that create the problem that we’re trying to deal with’.
Nothing changes for drug suppliers, importers and distributors, but their customers and victims, especially those who do not want to be addicted to drugs anymore, will have more options.
Specialist drug courts will be expanded, with Sydney’s to run five days a week instead of one.
An Indigenous court list and other culturally-geared initiatives such as the Youth Koori Court and Circle Sentencing will also be boosted through the justice response.
The pre-court drug diversions for low level offences will be similar to a scheme that already operates for cannabis, however Attorney-General Mark Speakman says they will remain separate.
‘We believe ice and other prohibited drugs should be treated differently to cannabis,’ he said.
Early intervention in prioritised rural and regional populations (Indigenous, pregnant, young, or mentally ill people), upgrading capacity for telehealth consults and other virtual healthcare, and hiring more staff are part of the health response.
The government says about 30,000 people impacted by alcoholism or dependency on other drugs will benefit, along with more than 11,000 people who have ‘alcohol and other drug related offending behaviour’.
The NSW Bar Association has said a statewide decriminalisation scheme was one of four ‘no-brainer’ recommendations that need to be enacted as soon as possible.
The commissioner who led the inquiry, Dan Howard, has said he was distressed by the government’s ‘hard-line’ approach to drugs.
There was an imbalance in how much Australia spent on policing compared to harm reduction and ‘helping people who need help’, he told ABC radio on Tuesday .
‘The whole drug and alcohol sector is grossly underfunded and has been for years,’ Professor Howard said.
The current approach drove drug users into the shadows, instead of helping them seek treatment.
Police Commissioner Karen Webb (pictured, far left with Mr Perrottet) said the force would target ‘those that create the problem’