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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2050 ..



This agreement will facilitate the early implementation of a diversion approach which will result in people being given early incentives to address their drug use problem, in many cases before incurring a criminal record.

It will also increase the number of illicit drug users diverted into drug education, assessment and treatment; and reduce the number of people appearing before the courts for use or possession of small quantities of illicit drugs.

As part of a new investment in prevention, early intervention, education and the diversion of drug users to counselling and treatment, the Commonwealth has announced funding of $220 million over four years.

The ACT Government supports this additional focus on treatment and diversion programs for drug, dependent people.

As Health Minister I welcome additional funding for the ACT and the other jurisdictions in this respect.

However, the ACT Government has made it clear that it does not and will not support a wholly zero tolerance or totally "tough on drugs" approach to managing Australia's drug problems.

Rather, our approach is based on the comprehensive harm minimisation philosophy which underpins the National Drug Strategy and our own ACT Drug Strategy.

The Government also remains concerned about the compulsory treatment approach advocated by the Prime Minister.

As the Chief Minister noted in her recent Ministerial Statement concerning the outcomes of the COAG meeting, it is important to tread very carefully when talking about the concept of "compulsory treatment".

Governments need to be there to help people who want to make the move from a drug-using lifestyle, by providing them with a range of treatment and counselling options to assist them to exit that lifestyle.

While illicit drug use and its associated harms can never be condoned, it is essential to take a broad approach if the best outcomes are to be achieved. These outcomes relate to both drug dependent people themselves and the broader community.

At the MCDS meeting last week, Health and Law Enforcement Ministers from around Australia agreed that a flexible approach to the implementation of diversion programs in the States and Territories was necessary.

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