Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3303 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
optimistic about the outcomes of the process. With 44 per cent of ACT males over the age of 14 consuming alcohol at risky levels and 34.6 per cent of ACT females aged over 14 also engaging in risky drinking, it is clear that there is a significant problem to be addressed if we are to have a truly healthy population.
We also have a high rate of illicit drug use. A 2001 survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 18.1 per cent of our population aged 14 and over had taken illicit drugs in the last year. The ACT rate was higher than the rates for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia. Of course, only a proportion of those drug users would be using drugs at a risky level or in a risky way.
Figures for risky drug use are not readily available, but we do know that risky drug use presents some serious challenges. Australia wide, one in three deaths of young people aged between 15 and 34 are drug related. Of those, 60 per cent are related to alcohol, 23 per cent to opiates, 7 per cent to tobacco and 10 per cent to other drugs. Figures for the ACT are likely to mirror those figures, although slightly lower for tobacco deaths due to our lower rates of smoking.
Concerns have been raised about the report which was prepared by the consultant to inform the task force and which summarises consultations with drug users and other stakeholders not being released to all the people who contributed to the strategy. Ms Tucker has raised this motion today because of these concerns. The allegation does make me quite concerned that the government could be exercising too much control over the content of the report, which may in the end compromise the effectiveness of the report.
If the community does not have access to the raw data fed into the strategy development process, it will be impossible to assess the likely effectiveness of the strategy. The government may be reluctant to endorse the release of the report if it is highly critical, but the very fact that the development of a strategy was deemed necessary is an indication that the government recognised that there was serious room for improvement to the current approach to drug use. Any shortcomings in existing education or treatment programs identified in the report would be seen by most as a positive step towards improving our response to problem alcohol and drug use. We must first identify the problem before we can fix it.
The only reason I have heard so far from the government for withholding the report is that the report is difficult to understand because it is in a rough form. I am not very convinced by this argument. I suggest that the assessment of whether it is understandable or not could be left to the people reading the report. That could encourage further debate and greater understanding of the figures presented.
I have no difficulty with the final strategy summarising and clarifying the consultant's report, but there is no good reason to deny the consulted parties access to the report, which has been prepared at taxpayers' expense for the benefit of the community. I hope that support for this motion today will encourage the government to promptly release the consultant's report so that there is greater awareness of the issues and greater debate can be brought about on how to address the problems that have been highlighted.