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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11661

Address at the Salvation Army Drug Rehabilitation Centre, Townsville

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 17/05/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11661

E&OE.........................

Well, thank you very much, Major Watters, Major Small, to Cathy Rogerson, to everybody else and most particularly to the people who are being assisted by this programme.

It's very important in tackling the drug problem that we recognise two things. That first of all we recognise that it is a big problem and needs to be tackled at three levels. And also in recognising the size of the problem we also recognise the enormous things that can be achieved if we target the campaign in the right way. And before coming up to the podium I have had an opportunity of talking to many of the men who are here, of hearing over a few minutes some of their stories and to realise that if people are given the right kind of encouragement and the right kind of support it can make an enormous difference to their lives. I'm personally very committed to the Tough on Drugs strategy and I'm very committed to supporting organisations like the Salvation Army and others in the what you might loosely call the welfare sector, the coalface of helping people who are struggling with a problem. Because I think organisations like the Salvation Army, and there are many others, understand the problem, but most importantly they understand how to deal with people who have got a problem. They're not judgemental. They're strong. They have a view about what is the best way of curing an addiction, but they are not judgemental about people. And I think that is the right approach to take.

You don't achieve anything in this area by giving into the latest fad and pretending there is really no problem, but equally you don't achieve anything in this area by being too judgemental. We've all got failings, we've all got weaknesses. Some people through the circumstances of their lives have found that different stages of their lives are more difficult to cope with than others. And that really does define often, the experience and the circumstances of it all. Now, you've got to tackle this drug problem by of course being as tough as we possibly can be on the people who peddle drugs and who make a profit out of human misery. They deserve our contempt and they deserve the strongest possible retaliation from society.

We also need to educate people against commencing drug taking. I have no truck with the idea that there is anything old fashioned about encouraging young people to say no to drugs. I think that is still the best approach to adopt. This idea that you sort of educate them to handle it properly is crazy. You have to really encourage people to resist the temptation in the beginning. Now that doesn't work in many cases, then what you have got to try and do is to help the people who do become addicted and that is the third arm of our approach. And it is an area that I think has been neglected a bit in the past. Not neglected by bodies like the Salvation Army, but neglected perhaps at a government level in the past. And that's why there is a very big emphasis on helping the people who are trying to help people break their addiction. I mean, as Prime Minister, and as a local member of Parliament, I have spent a lot of time over the last few years talking to parents who've got drug addiction problems with their children. I've talked to parents whose children have really lost their lives through drug taking. And I've tried to understand the strain that is imposed on them and the way in which it can affect families. And the thing that has really struck me most of all when I listen to these tales is that there is still within the Australian community a lack of adequate facilities for people who want to try and break the addiction. And that's why centres like this are so tremendously important.

And we are going to provide a quarter of a million dollars to this particular centre to help them reach out to women in the Townsville community who have a drug addiction problem. And that additional money will enable the employment of an addictions counselor at this particular centre and that will expand the reach and the capacity of the organisation.

Brian mentioned that there was something like, that the money that we are making available for the diversionary programmes, these diversionary programmes are very important. But what they really seek to do is to say to people who, who've got a drug problem and who start to get caught up with the criminal justice system, say to them, we don't want you to go to jail, we don't want you to be put in the criminal justice system, that's ridiculous, it's inappropriate. But it's not just good enough to say that. You've got to have an incentive not to be caught up in the criminal justice system. So we are saying to those people, if you are prepared to go into a diversionary programme, to come, perhaps to a programme like this, and go through the full course and undertake all of the treatment. And if you are willing to do that we will forget about any kind of charge or any kind of processing of you through the criminal justice system. And this approach has very wide support. And it has got strong support from all of the State Governments in Australia, Liberal and Labor alike. This is not really a party political issue, it's something that's above that. And I'm very happy to work with Labor Premiers as well as Liberal Premiers in implementing these programmes. And I hope in the next couple of weeks to announce jointly with the NSW Premier the diversionary programme in New South Wales and we are working hard to do that. And that's good and I hope that I will be able to do the same thing in Queensland with the Queensland Government.

And you read a lot in the papers about the focus on heroin trials which I don't agree with, or injecting rooms which I don't agree with. There are some people who do. I think they're wrong, they think I'm wrong. But that's only a small part of the debate. The great bulk of the campaign against the drug menace in this country draws strong support from all leaders of government on both sides of politics. And what I'm trying to do as Prime Minister is to give some national focus and national leadership to it. To commit extra resources. To emphasis the areas of priority. And to particularly today to encourage and applaud the Salvation Army and like bodies for the tremendous humanity that they have displayed over the years. If ever there is a demonstration of practical Christianity within our community you get it from the Salvation Army, in so many areas. They go to people who need help, they need understanding, they don't need lectures, they need support, they also need some sort of strong guidance. And that is exactly what the Salvation Army provides. It always has. And it is a credit to the people who share its values and its faith. And I know that it has helped tens upon thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Australians over the years to deal with different problems and this is yet another example of that and I'm always very happy to be associated with it. I applaud Brian Watters for the work that he did in leading the, what I might call loosely, the anti-drug arm and his successor is here today. Brian continues on as Chairman of my Council on Drugs and he is doing an absolutely magnificent job.

Unfortunately in the media coverage of the debate on drugs there seems to be over-preoccupation with the areas of difference and an under-preoccupation with the areas of agreement. Just about everybody agrees that you have got to put the peddlers in jail. That you have got to educate people against starting it and you have got to help people who want to be rehabilitated and today is about another small element of that and over the next year I hope to see many more programmes like this around Australia. I congratulate the Salvation Army here in Townsville. I wish the people they are reaching out to and supporting that I had the opportunity of meeting earlier, I wish them well. I hope you stay with the programme, but very importantly I hope you have happy and fulfilling lives in the years ahead. And I was tremendously encouraged by what you all said to me. And we are all, as I say, we are all susceptible to difficult behaviour. Some are more fortunate than others in the circumstances that affects their lives. And that is where people who have particular difficulties need organisations like this and I congratulate them and thank them for what they are doing for humanity.

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 11661