I received my first question via Social Media today from James (keep them coming!) He'd had a bit of a look at my website and was concerned as he hadn't seen anything addressing the Ice issue we're experiencing in the electorate, and that the drug was rotting the Shepparton community from the inside. He followed that up by asking whether I support legislation against organised crime, noting that there is an Outlaws clubhouse in Shep.
Here is my response:
Hi James, thanks for your question. That Shepparton is now deemed by some to be the Ice Capital of Victoria sickens me.
Through my work at ESTA taking Police 000 calls and through reading articles like those in The Saturday Paper last year on the topic, I'm well aware of the awful effects the drug has on people - it effectively turns them into demons. I'm also aware that it's impacting on smaller towns like Rushworth and Tongala that have the added disadvantage of less-than ideal police presence.
On the Policies page of my website, under the heading "Drugs, Alcohol and Pokies" I've written briefly on the subject, saying that I "... support harm minimisation programs, investment in more rehabilitation beds and an emphasis on medical treatment of users, rather than incarceration. Law enforcement investment and harsher penalties must be aimed at dealers, importers and manufacturers..."
I was excited to read in last week's Numurkah Leader about the drug rehab centre proposed just south of that town, especially as the article said that over 80% of locals surveyed supported the plan and that over 70% of those who live near the proposed site are happy to have the facility built there. I'm hoping the bulk of the 48 beds (from memory) would be dedicated to rehabilitation from Ice, given it's the main issue at the moment.
I wasn't able to attend the public forum in Mooroopna on Tuesday night as I was at work. I did, however, speak to several people in Murray about Ice-related crime - including Domestic Violence - during my 12hr shift. I'm hoping the Shepparton News will have coverage in today's (Wednesday) edition.
I do plan to expand on my written policy in this area, however I'd like to have something that will add to the debate before I do, simply saying "Ice is bad" doesn't cut it for me. Jacqui Lambie's plans to be able to force young people into rehab make me uncomfortable, but I am open to the idea if there was a 'sunset clause' added to the legislation - hopefully we'd be able to get on top of the Ice epidemic and such 'full on' measures wouldn't be needed anymore.
In the longer term, I'd like to have the national science curriculum covering basic neurobiology, as I think that giving our young people a real understanding of how their brains work would mean the anti-drugs education could be more sophisticated than "drugs are bad", they would know why they're bad and the effects they have.
It's a complex issue and at this point I'm open to all suggestions.
Obviously if I'm elected as a Federal MP, I can't introduce or vote for State legislation, but if the people of Murray do choose me I plan to work closely with the State and Municipality representatives that cover our electorate on all issues.
I wonder whether giving the Australian Crime Commission extra funding may get better results and faster, but if such legislation is introduced, Victoria can learn from the mistakes made by QLD with their VLAD laws to ensure the right people are caught and punished.