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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1581 ..

MS TUCKER (4.50): This MPI deals with what Mr Pratt refers to as the alarming increase in drug usage by high school students as reflected in the 1999 ACT secondary schools alcohol and drug survey report.

Having looked at the summary results, I do not see that there is an alarming increase-and I wonder why Mr Pratt has interpreted the results in the way he has. Whilst, of course, there is a problem with substance abuse by young people and old people in our society, we must be wary of creating an atmosphere that is dominated by anxiety, at the expense of solutions.

Many people in our community are anxious about substance abuse-and reasonably so. That is why there has been a call from the community for a substance abuse taskforce. I brought that for debate in this Assembly last week, and it was supported by the Assembly.

This is a question for all of us-collectively, and as individuals. There needs to be significant soul searching at both these levels. To do this, we should be as calm and thoughtful as possible and avoid fear reactions, which can make the situation worse.

I was interested, as was Ms Dundas, to see in the Canberra Times today this very point made at the third international conference on drugs and young people. As Ms Dundas said, Dr Marsha Rosenbaum was reported as saying that young people had become cynical about anti-drug messages, and the effectiveness of such messages is problematic at best and may be counterproductive.

That is certainly consistent with my understanding of much of the response from young people in the ACT. I reached that understanding by talking to people who work in the drug sector, friends of my children, parents of friends of my children and people at funerals. I have talked to the parents of children who have died. They are very concerned that we keep seeing this fearful reaction which is not producing an environment where we can have the calm discussion for which people are calling. That is essential because, as everyone has said, there is no magic answer to this question.

Young people are not impressed by the idea of Kenny Koala. Maybe Kenny Koala would work in a primary school-for a while. If you look at popular culture, and the shows young people watch, you will see the joke that is made of that kind of response from adults with regard to drugs. It does indeed have a counterproductive report. I would like to get a couple of episodes of South Park for Mr Pratt to watch. Maybe he has not watched them. He might get an idea of what young people think about the abstinence line.

I want to elaborate on why I am concerned about Mr Pratt's interpretation of this report. This is not the first study. If Mr Pratt is saying there has been an alarming increase in drug usage over the years, he needs to clarify that. His MPI refers to the alarming increase in drug usage for high school students, as reflected in the 1999 ACT secondary schools alcohol and drug survey report. The only other one we have was done in 1996. The results of this do not support that there has been an alarming increase in those few years.

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