Pubdate: Fri, 20 Apr 2007
Source: Advertiser, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2007 Advertiser Newspapers Ltd
Author: Glenn Milne
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


THE Federal Government will establish an international "flying squad" 
of elite police to target the production of the drug "ice" both in 
Australia and the region. The new Federal Police squad will be 
announced by Prime Minister John Howard today as part of an 
additional $150 million over four years to boost the Government's 
tough-on-drugs strategy.

The move follows revelations late last year that use of the dangerous 
street drug in South Australia increased by an alarming 20 per cent 
over the past 12 months.

Police also blamed the addictive drug for an increase in violent 
crime in 2006, with users often committing offences to sustain their habits.

While the trend has been seen across almost all states and 
territories, SA has recorded the largest usage increase, according to 
the annual surveys of illicit drug availability, price, quality and 
demand, by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

The ice problem had also had an impact on health care with violent or 
agitated drug users segregated from other patients under a Health 
Department plan to ease the strain they are putting on hospital 
emergency departments.

The facilities were designed to take users out of public areas at all 
major hospitals.

Mr Howard's package will also include additional funding to buy 
state-of-the-art drug detection equipment for the customs service.

As well as other drugs this equipment will pick up both the 
importation of ice and, critically, its components such as pseudoephedrine.

Some of the largest ice "factories" supplying Australia are located 
in South-East Asian countries such as Indonesia. The new 
international Federal Police squad, to be known as the Regional 
Deployment Team, will aim to intercept the drug before it reaches the 
local market.

The team will operate through an international liaison officer 
network and will actually go to regional sites of drug production if 
the case requires it.

Drug Beat SA chief executive Eric Faschingbauer welcomed the move, 
saying ice was a "huge problem".

"We support any initiative by the Government to reduce the supply of 
ice. It's a destructive drug," he said.

The package to be announced by Mr Howard will also include additional 
money for the Australian Crime Commission aimed at improving its 
technical communications interception capabilities.

The strategy will involve three main planks - rehabilitation, 
education and greater law enforcement - and adds to the $1.3 billion 
the Government has already spent on the tough-on-drugs strategy first 
unveiled in 1997.

Mr Howard has been impressed by the statistics over that period. The 
percentage of illicit drug users has fallen from 22 per cent of the 
population to 15 per cent, the number of cannabis users has dropped 
from 18 per cent to 11 per cent and the number of heroin deaths has 
also dropped from 1100 a year a decade ago to 374 in 2005.

Police have also seized a total of 14 tonnes of illicit drugs over the decade.

The package to be unveiled by the Prime Minister follows an 
announcement by Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd last week that an 
incoming Labor Government would ban the importation of ice implements 
along with the over-the-counter sale of pseudoephedrine to minors.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom