The Commissioner of the Ice Inquiry has criticised the NSW government for missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for drug reform.
Professor Dan Howard SC handed down the landmark report almost 15 months ago. However, the government has failed to adequately respond to the report.
Five recommendations have been outright rejected by the Government, including pill testing and another supervised injecting centre. Professor Howard wanted to know the Government’s reasoning for such rejection.
Almost 18 months of enquiries with no change
The Inquiry was established in November 2018. It’s mission was to investigate the nature, prevalence and impact of crystal methamphetamine (ice) and other illicit amphetamines, including MDMA, in NSW.
The Inquiry heard submissions in public and private hearings across the State including in regional locations such as Broken Hill, Dubbo, Lismore, Nowra, and the Hunter Region.
At the establishment of the inquiry, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller both emphasised the need to tackle this serious issue.
“Ice is a destructive drug that is ruining too many lives across NSW, especially in our regional centres,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We are establishing a powerful Special Commission of Inquiry because we want every option on the table to bolster our existing efforts to combat the evolving threat of this dangerous, illegal drug – and to get help for those who need it.”
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said, “Core business for NSW Police is the prevention, disruption and response to crime.
“Specifically, the more we can do to prevent and disrupt the manufacture, importation and dealing of crystal methamphetamine, the less crime we’ll have to respond to right across the board.
“This drug is destroying families and killing people across NSW and my officers are on the front line every day dealing with the damage and violence it causes.”
However, it seems that both wanted the inquiry to land on a hard, ‘war on drugs’ approach to the drug. The inquiry came back with realistic, health-orientated recommendations to drug use and addiction. However, the NSW Government seemingly ignored it.
A drugs inquiry for nothing?
Professor Howard said he was deeply disappointed with the Government’s failure to respond to the recommendations.
Howard said it was “beyond belief and unacceptable” that the government hadn’t responded to a recommendation for more services for Aboriginal communities. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that he had felt personally haunted by some evidence of Indigenous families who remained sceptical the government would help.
“Having heard all the evidence I’ve heard, and made the recommendations that I’ve made, to be 15 months later wondering what on earth is the government planning to do, it makes me despairing of the political process,” Professor Howard said.
“I wonder how many of the politicians who are deciding what to do with this report have actually bothered to read it, frankly, because if they had they would understand the urgency of the measures that were recommended.”
20th Anniversary of the Kings Cross Injecting Centre
It is twenty years on from the revolutionary injecting centre in Kings Cross. However, the NSW Government has only gone backwards in drug reform and healthcare.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right, and I think we’re on the brink of the whole thing being pigeonholed and blowing it, frankly.”
Professor Howard told the SMH that he was nearing retirement and the inquiry was one of the most important achievements of his working life.
“I find it ironic and a little sad that the thing I’ve put my very all into has achieved so very little,” he said.