Pubdate: Sun, 03 May 2015
Source: Sunday Telegraph, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 News Limited
Author: Miranda Devine


THE emotional circus surrounding the executions of Bali Nine drug 
masterminds Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran is wrong on so many levels.

One lowlight was the grandstanding 11th hour intervention by a group 
of actors telling Tony Abbott to "show some balls".

But nothing was as bad as the unscrupulous opportunism of the drug 
reform lobby.

No sooner had the shots been fired on Nusakambangan Island than the 
drug liberalisers started capitalising on acute media-driven 
sympathy, declaring the executions were proof the "war on drugs" is futile.

Chan and Sukumaran "have become the latest victims in the unwinnable 
war on drugs", declared Associate Professor David van Mill of the 
University of Western Australia.

"The Australian war on drugs must stop today," wrote Matt Noffs, CEO 
of the Noffs Foundation. "Remember the faces of Chan and Sukumaran 
when you next hear that term 'the war on drugs'." What a joke. For 
starters, Chan and Sukumaran might have reformed, but a decade ago 
they were hard-core drug traffickers who had induced seven young 
Australians, average age 22, to smuggle 8.8kg of heroin from Bali.

What's more, there is no "Australian war on drugs". Drug use has been 
effectively decriminalised. The Howardera policies that dramatically 
reduced drug use have fallen by the wayside. As a result, drugs are 
cheap and as plentiful as they have ever been.

So eager are people to lay blame for the executions that we forget 
the context of the socalled "Bali Nine" arrests in 2005. Australia 
had been through a deadly heroin epidemic that had claimed thousands.

In 1999, a staggering 1116 people were killed by heroin. Associated 
crime, especially rampant break and enters, was taking its toll.

Under the influence of drug liberalisers, illicit use had leapt 29 
per cent between 1995 and 1998, the largest increase in our history, 
according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.

Australia had one of the biggest drug problems in the world, with 22 
per cent of the population taking drugs at least once a year, five 
times the global average. We were heading over a cliff.

When John Howard came to office he instituted a "Tough on Drugs 
Strategy", combining law enforcement, education, rehabilitation and 
harm reduction. It was a stunning success - for the first time in 
three decades drug use fell. Heroin deaths plummeted. Between 1998 
and 2007 the use of cannabis halved, speed and ice fell 40 per cent 
and heroin plunged 75 per cent.

The age of experimentation climbed and fewer teenagers used drugs. In 
1996 almost one in five children aged 12 to 15 had used an illicit 
drug in the previous month. By 2008 that figure was down to one in 20.

Customs X-rayed containers for drugs at the dockyards and the heroin 
seizure rate increased from 8.5 kilograms per million population in 
1995 to 30.4kg in 2000, with major drug dealers jailed.

The result was a heroin drought from the end of 2000 that was unique 
in the world.

Under the able leadership of Commissioner Mick Keelty, the Australian 
Federal Police had expanded into the SouthEast Asian Golden Triangle, 
where much of our heroin originated, establishing links with police 
across the region, including in Indonesia. The regional co-operation 
on drugs soon extended to counter terrorism and people smuggling.

After the 2002 Bali bombing, ties with Indonesian law enforcement 
grew stronger, underpinned by the friendship between Keelty and 
Bali's police chief, Made Pastika.

Significantly, Australia had also signed the United Nations 
Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic 

This treaty obliged us to cooperate with other countries on drug-law 
enforcement, so we traded information about trafficking operations 
with our neighbours.

This is the context of the Bali Nine arrests in April 2005.

Chan was a career criminal with the tattoos of Kings Cross gangster 
Danny Karam to prove it. He and Sukumaran had already run heroin 
smuggling operations. Their latest venture was worth $4 million.

Yet, today's armchair critics claim the AFP has "blood on its hands" 
for tipping off the Indonesians. They ignore the death and misery 
that would have come from the 8kg of heroin the Bali Nine was trying 
to import. They forget the AFP was carrying out the will of the 
people. There was no guarantee the heroin would have been intercepted 
without the involvement of Indonesia.

The emotional connection many Australians felt with those two men was 
to our credit. Having come to know them through the advocacy of 
artist Ben Quilty and blanket media coverage, it was impossible not 
to be moved by their apparent rehabilitation and feel horror at their deaths.

But a belief in redemption does not erase the crime. Nor should it 
condemn us to repeat the mistakes of history.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom