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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1586 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

He made one comment which I believe is particularly true, and maybe it is a pointer to how we can improve the situation. That is, there are some schools which appear to be running programs very well indeed, and others which are not so robust, or are perhaps not running effective programs.

There is one thing that, as minister, I was keen to see happen. It is an ongoing thing, and we should continue to do it. It is necessary to find out what is working, and use that in other schools as well-and see if more can be done. This is one area where I think, "What more can we do? Obviously there are areas here that are not working."

There were a couple of programs which worked very well-I remember seeing one at Deakin. I am not sure, but I think that was replicated through most of our schools, and especially our high schools, both government and non-government. That was a successful program which highlighted the problems of smoking with year 7s. They were followed up when they were in year eight. It found that, as a result, a lot of those kids had either stopped smoking or were not going to take it up. Also, they had either stopped or were not going to take up any harder drugs than that. Those are the kinds of programs which it can be shown work in several schools. They can be replicated-so we are not reinventing the wheel. I think that is important.

I was interested to hear Mrs Cross. She raised some figures which are indicative of the damage it costs Australia each year in terms of drug and alcohol use. The costs associated with smoking amount to $11 billion a year,

Some big steps have been made in that area over the years. You, Mr Speaker, have been a tireless advocate against smoking, and I commend you for that. I have, over my time in this Assembly, been very pleased to see and support, and in some cases initiate, some measures-things like the health promotion fund and the extra money that goes to promote a healthy message. Yet there is still the expense of $11 billion from a legal drug; $5 billion from alcohol-related expenses, and $2 billion from expenses related to illicit drugs.

It is interesting that that is a significant figure but not as high as for legal drugs. I know there are some in our community who almost give up regarding illicit drugs and think, "Why don't they legalise them?" Those figures tell us something. I would hate to see the damage caused by illicit drugs if they were made legal. We need to take steps to stop people either going down the path of taking drugs that harm them greatly or, if they do, we must do what we can to wean them off those very damaging drugs.

We have a big enough bill already with legal drugs. It is a huge bill, despite significant steps having been taken with regard to smoking-although we still see disturbing figures, especially in relation to young women taking up the habit.

Ms Tucker asked, "Why do people take drugs?" There are a number of reasons. Illicit drugs, especially, seem to be very much a western habit. I was interested in two countries I visited over the past few years. Dave Rugendyke and I went once, with the Assembly, to Papua New Guinea. I also went on a private visit to Vietnam. In Papua New Guinea, they do not have a heroin problem because the society cannot afford it. They just do not have the money for that. They do have a marijuana problem, because that can be grown.

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