The Australian social policies in the context like homelessness, domestic violence, drug treatment, youth suicide and so on are certain major areas of public policy debate. This write-up would explore one of such existing social policies, namely ‘Ice Action Policy’, its implications, policy process, the impact on service users and change for recommendations by using social policy literature.
Description of the policy
The effort to deal with illicit drugs in the Australia has been a major policy concern during the last century and described as a major policy challenge in the present era. Despite of the presence and implementations of policy activities in order to eliminate, prevent drug-associated harms, control drug availability, extensive use of psychoactive compounds remains the same throughout the world. In Australia, Ice use is a deep concern. A statistical report presents that Ice use had been increasing since 2007. There were approximately 100,000 users in Australia in 2007 and the rate has been increased to 200,000 by 2013, which indicates a steep raise in Ice use (Taylor and Clark 2015). This has attracted the focus of the Governments and respective authoritative bodies that urged them to take necessary actions against this serious problem. Therefore, the Government, in the year 2015 has established ‘National Ice Taskforce’, who takes action and reports to deal with the increasing use of Ice in Australia. It is a synthetic compound, which is locally produced and imported and gradually became difficult to interrupt the supply. Due to affordable price, Ice is available and accessible to a greater extent. The aim of the ‘Ice Action Policy’ is to diminish the rate of Ice use and associated harms throughout Australian communities (Maxwell 2015). The strategy comprises obtainable actions, which further support the governments, communities and the service providers to work in a collaborative way in order to reduce Ice use, associated harms and supply in Australia. The Commonwealth Government provides additional financial support for this program that has further reinforced the reaction to Ice application. During 1990s, the development of drug policy, especially on Heroine use, was equally in the focus of policy makers, researchers and politicians. Later, the Prime Minister Howard structured a new and federal strategy ‘Tough on Drugs’. This was a ‘zero tolerance’ policy throughout his tenure and demonstrated his effort on harm minimization in the context of drug abuse (Chalmers, Lancaster and Hughes 2016). Australian media devoted major attention towards ice epidemic, as it is more destructive compare to the other drugs in Australia and the abrupt emergence left the governments and health services unprepared to deal with the Ice chaos. These incidences show the materialization of methamphetamine use as a major policy issue in Australia. Presently, the Australian government is providing almost $ 299 million in order to take measures to diminish the effects of drug abuse on the families, individuals and communities. Such funding would reinforce treatment, prevention, education along with community engagement (Health.gov.au 2016). Almost $242 million fund was provided to the primary health networks to meet local needs, concentrate on culturally competent mainstream services and also for the indigenous population.
Critical assessment of the policy process
It is mentioned by Lancaster and Ritter (2014) that based on the advice from Victorian legal and health experts, Daniel Andrews, the Victorian Prime minister viz. the Labour government will take a step to eradicate demand, supply and drug related harms that are ruining millions of Australian’s lives. In 2015, Andrews released an action plan, which was developed by his task force and delivered within the initial 100days of the formation of the government (Ransley et al. 2011). Considering the plan, Andrews’ government invested almost $5 million in order to support families to recognize and deal with Ice users and approximately $1 million was invested to support the lead workers, who are at the possibility of getting affected at work. The Labour government also invested almost $18million to support rehabilitation and drug treatment, so that, the users could get the required support they needed and also structured Ice Help Line, which directs the health professionals and families to support their needs. New measures were also taken to diminish the supply of the crystallized methamphetamine on the streets of Australia that comprised almost $5millon plan. The aim of these measures was to attack stealthy drug labs and implement tough actions to stop the manufacturers and dealers. Community safety was the priority of the Andrews’ government and thereby supported the community groups by providing almost $500,000to deal with Ice use within the local areas. Not only that, the government introduced new prospects for the young population, which comprised funds for ‘TAFE Rescue’ fund and ‘Back to work’ plan. The action plan developed in Victoria identified a major increase in the rate of Ice users, who were at their 20s.
The Australian Greens are developed based on four major principles, which include grassroots democracy, ecological sustainability, non-violence, peace and social justice. Thus, controlling use of illicit drugs is one of their major goals. This also indicates that the Greens do not support the legalisation of illegal drugs. According to this party, the individuals, who are using illicit substances, should not be judged with criminal framework. However, they support continuance of penalties for the drug dealers and implementation of an effective system for civil sanction regarding private use of illicit substances while being aloof from other crimes that include actions like treatment, counselling and education than penalties. The Green party also mentioned about the availability of increased change to treatment, recovery and rehabilitation programs as an alternative for the individuals convicted of offense in order to support addiction towards illicit substances (AADANT 2016). This party has majorly focused on developing communication between the local communities and relevant agencies in order to address issues related with illicit drugs. It is evident that the Liberal government established Australian Border Force to integrate and streamline agencies to offer better protection and maintain security and safety in Australia. The Border Force in association with the Federal Police combat the border associated crime, seize drug transactions like Iceand thereby, target the security threats (Liberal Party of Australia 2016). Different point of views exists in the context of reducing Ice use, as the major concern is that the young population do believe that it is easy to get drugs. This indicates a need to developstrategy to deal with Ice by closing the major supply of such substances, as no supply would give rise to zero drug usage. Toughest action should be taken at the dealer and manufacturing level, which requires accurate policing ad tougher penalties. This pinpoints much stronger approach to eradicate supply. Majority believe that a stoppage in supply could not be won and hence, people would be at the safe side if they purchase drugs from the regulated sources, though, it is not supported by a major group of people.
The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) is a major body represent alcohol and drug (AOD) related services and offers advocacy, representation, leadership and information to non-AOD and AOD-sectors(Vaada, 2016). Its goal is to take care of complications individuals are experiencing due to drug and alcohol use and the other supportive organizations, which are represented well in program and policy development along with public discussion.
Minimisation of harm has been one of the major principles reinforcing successive drug strategies. VAADA believed that an effective national framework always serve the community. Majority of the VAADA members provided feedback for broad support,more awareness of intrinsic tensions and more focus towards internal inconsistency between demand, supply and strategies associated with harm reduction. Simultaneously, VAADA did not agree about the necessity to strengthen abstinence-related interventions. Besides Ice, Cannabis, LSD, Mephedrone, PMA and so on are certain drugs that are not legalised in Australia. State and Federal laws give punishments for using, processing and selling or making these drugs. Australian Drug laws distinguish between the drug suppliers and drug users. The National Customs Act includes the significance of drugs. Individual states have its individual laws that monitor the possession, manufacture, and drug use, distribution of both illegal and legal drugs. The DPCSA or Drug, Poisons and ‘Controlled Substances Act’ comprises major drug offences like ‘Use’, which refers to inhaling and smoking of fumes and thereby introducing drug dependence into an individual’s system. ‘Possession’ refers to having custody of a substance. Anyone with such possession needs to be authorized by the court. ‘Trafficking’ is a serious offense that includes developing drug dependence, manufacturing, exchanging and selling. At a commercial level, penalties are highly applicable. With funding support from the New South Wales, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation provide community education for eradicating the use of Ice in this region. The support process includes telling real stories about ‘Ice’ and providing interactive and factual information so that some differences could be made. The system works in association with the researchers and policy makers in non-government and government organizations in order to inform their decision-making and policy. It advocates changes through mobilizing and informing major audiences. It analyses policy initiatives prior implementation in association with particular communities and other stakeholders.
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre provided some noteworthy figure that attracted the focus of the government officials and media towards the rapid use of Ice in Australia. It showed that since 2010death due to Ice use has been increased. The rate of Ice drug users has raised by almost 52%. Injectable drug users also use Ice and the frequency of usage was also increased from fortnightly to weekly. The territory, state and national law makers’ intervention led to arrests and seizures. Policy initiatives like mass media campaigning have reduced domestic demand for this drug (Quinn 2016). However, no noticeable evidence is present that shows the reduced supply or demand of Ice in Australia. Considering the rate of Ice use, the work of the National Task force emerged to be difficult. According to the Task Force members, disrupting the substance use system requires more effort than simply put the dealers in jail or recommending users for rehabilitation. Nevertheless, it could also be mentioned that by just focusing on strategies for balancing treatment, arrests, family support, rehabilitation and education would not be fruitful on its own. It requires strategic focus on diminishing harm through demand and supply reduction.
Impacts of Ice action plan
Successful implementation of the initiatives would generate positive economic and social return on investments. This comprises significant developments to the health and well being of the service users via constant reduction of Ice use and saving to the government and diversion from the criminal detention. This action plan linked many Australian families to relevant and required support programs like ‘family drug support’. This has provided a chance to the youth population to access rehabilitation and also allows the families to access required respite care and post-care help that would further help them to develop family cohesion (Fitzgerald 2015). This plan has successfully made the government understand the fact that more investment is necessary for the family support services as these are beleaguered with contract from distraught and concerned family members. The action plan enabled to recognize families, who need more education and information regarding the effects of Ice usage and treatments available as these families struggle hard to make a decision how to help. This is especially true, where there is an inadequacy in a referral from the emergency services and the users were sent home. Sometimes it is seen that the family members of the young users are also involved in drug abuse, Ice action plan enables to help not only the young users but also their family members and customize care for the individuals, which further indicates holistic focus on the users. This further shows that rehabilitation cannot fit for all and also, rehabilitation may require more than years, where the service users fail to cope up with the time frame. Thus, the Ice action plan strengthens positive association among the users within the Australian community (Manderson 2013). The plan also pinpoints that the government efforts to deal with Ice use should majorly concentrate on early intervention and education, wherever feasible and targets the existing user population for whom positive opportunities depend upon the availability of rehabilitation and detoxification facilities. It is also seen that lack of detoxification facilities, especially for the young population remains significant obstruction to effective treatment and interventions. Considering this, the task force mentioned that individual users, who are willing to be motivated and seeking change, proper rehabilitation facilities and detoxification should be available in order to maximize a fine gap of opportunity. Detoxification facilities for the youth under 16years of age should be targeted as vulnerable adolescents, which also include people from juvenile justice system. As per the plan, the governments at various levels need to provide support to the vulnerable people and play a strong role in supporting recovery. The plan enabled to introduce efforts in order to promote awareness and research, which further facilitated better workforce development in dealing with complex requirements of the Ice users. As the action plan aims to shut the supply of the drug by the manufacturers and dealers, there is a chance that they find other ways to continue their trade, which in turn could affect the health and wellbeing of the society. For instance, these manufacturers could establish association with pharmaceutical organizations and modify certain formulations, which are actually not legal drugs. Also, they could continue trading the drugs by tourists or cattle. This further supports the strengthening of eligibility criteria in schemes associate with Maritime and Aviation Security Identification Card in order to target organized and serious crimes (Chalmers, Lancaster and Hughes 2016). So, a loophole in the authoritative division could destruct the effectiveness of entire anti-discrimination action plan. As per a report, Shepparton, a city in Victoria, yet to receive direct benefits from the action plan. But, the government states that support is delivered equally to all the regions in Australia. It is evident that almost $58 million investment was done for mental health facility in Grampian, but not in the regional areas (Ransley et al. 2013). The policy strengthened internationalised cooperation by structuring innovative supply destruction strategies. There is a strong appeal in the present policy for Ice strategy in order to accept system methodology so that the responsible task force could solve the Ice problem. This methodology requires that the reactions to be in multi layer system, redundant, with higher cooperation. Thus, the risk of Ice could be mitigated. Quinn (2016) in this context has mentioned that disruption approach may deliver highly organized system. Successful implementation and monitoring could enable the task force to achieve better control on equipments and chemicals used to manufacture Ice. The task force carries out dealer campaign and encourage community to report on drug distribution and manufacture, whenever and wherever identified. The task force conduct national review on drug programs that inform about options and practice approaches within the existing setup. The action plan also ensure the fact that the treatment and support for the Ice users are in place, prior and after they depart custody, which further eliminate the feeling of homelessness and re-initiate the habit of drug use and offensive behaviour. Public awareness and mass media campaigns are common tools applied by the governments in order to inform public about harms related to illegal drugs. However, a report demonstrated that media campaigns have no effect on illicit drug use and behavior (Maxwell 2015).
The effects that Ice uses have on individuals and communities, affecting Australia and the entire world to a greater extent. So, it could be stated that the core reality of Ice epidemic is not only relying on Ice usage. Aiming to target ice use is politically constructive, but might hinder the design of plans, which are on the verge of having better threat reduction value. The strategy development to reduce Ice use would comprise various complicated processes and initiatives along with multifaceted interactions. The chance of success could be wiry (Hamilton and Dunlop 2016). From the discussion, it could be easily stated that there would not be any simple solution for the policy makers, who are trying hard to eradicate Ice epidemic. Hence, further policy responses need to be reinforced by proper guidance and experience from the past that should consider addressing three major areas like disruption, innovation and integration. Whatever tactic is applied, its core ideology needs to be the development of single strategy, which does not merely bridge cross-functional and multiple ingenuities rather create integrated initiatives (Rogerson 2015). It is an accurate time for the policy makers to reconsider policy lessons and strategies from heroine epidemic occurred during 1990. Hence, the policy makers accountable for strategy development need to consider the significance of the incorporation of demand, supply and eradication policies during the development.
Australia has its strongest association with the Chinese authority, thereby, productive association also exists between Chinese border security and Australian Department of immigration and border protection. This association could be strengthened to strictly scrutinize and restrict the transport of illicit drugs through the border, which further requires substantial resource and time investments. Reinforcing such strategy also requires respective governments to regularly monitor the footprint and size of their global activities (governmental surveillance system). Disruption in the drug supply process requires more engagement and collaborative working with the enforcement officials. It might not develop accordingly, if the anti-Ice activities are not merged in a succinct nationalized drug supply diminition strategy, which would further support current national investment (Werb 2013). So, to reduce the supply and related precursors from abroad countries, the following steps could be recommended:
- Need for nationalized disruption strategy, which coordinates the national, trade, diplomatic, police, trade, border security exertions in Australia in order to decrease Ice (drug) supply coming from abroad countries like China, as it is thought to be significant home country for substances like ice and related precursors. This recommendation is based on unsettling the marketplace at the root of origin.
- Supportive strategies with other countries like Chinese authorities are necessary that would restrict the digression of predecessors from the legitimate economy of these countries are also necessary.
- Probable strategic and operational impacts of the application of death penalty should also be explored.
- New Justice Research centre could be established in order to provide coordinated nationalized law enforcement and clear picture on illicit drug markets.
- Need to implement and develop worldwide ‘End User Declaration System’.
- Development of pilot infrastructure to inform the development of criminal intelligence system.
As a disruption approach may reduce a highly structured approach unnecessarily, a thorough evaluation of the harmful effects associated with Ice and dynamics are fundamental to the implementation of disruption strategies, which further necessitates monitoring through different point of views.
From the above discussion, it could be mentioned that illicit drugs, irrespective of their types are major social issues and inextricably associated with socio-economic factors. Various drug policies are in place, however, not all are adequate and the respective authoritative bodies are not obtaining the best returns of their investments. The reasons being lack of proof on which to structure policies, evidence is not always analyzed and considered in policy related decision-making, inadequate models to support policy makers to develop good ideas to deal with drug issues and finally, the drug policy is highly debatable in politicized arena. The thorough analysis of the Ice action policy provides a valuable insight on present strategies, ideas, interventions within Australia that further enable the country to respond with success and readiness to illegitimate drug use.
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