AUSTRALIA'S top crime fighting body has conceded that stopping the flow of narcotics into Australia is impossible, and has advocated heroin trials using a government-controlled heroin bank.
The National Crime Authority chairman Gary Crooke said drug barons' profits were beyond the comprehension of ordinary Australians. "It's nothing to abandon a $500,000 aircraft used to supply drugs," he said.
The NCA made the call in a report which said organised crime should be treated as a matter of national security. NCA chairman Gary Crooke said profits beyond the comprehension of ordinary Australians were fuelling a trade which had spiralled since the 1980s, and police could not stop most shipments slipping through undetected. Creating a government-controlled heroin bank and treating drug addiction as a health problem should be considered, he said.
Mr Crooke, speaking at the launch of the NCA's Commentary on Organised Crime 2000, said injecting rooms were not necessary for heroin trials. Trials would allow doctors to wean addicts off the drug using a government-controlled heroin bank, he said.
Mr Crooke said the trials could take away the profit motive of the drug barons. In describing traffickers profits as beyond the comprehension of ordinary Australians, he said a $9000 shipment became $90,000 when sold on the street.
"It's nothing to abandon a $500,000 aircraft used to supply drugs," Mr Crooke said. "And with Australia having over 35,000km of coastline, the NCA accepted that most drug shipments were getting through undetected. Only a small proportion of drugs coming into Australia are able to be seized or intercepted," Mr Crooke said.
But Senator Ellison said a reduction in supply was the key to fighting the drug trade. And reducing demand resulted from education.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said Labor would favourably consider any proposal for a heroin trial put by one of the states or territories.
"We would have a disposition to view it favourably, and we would look at our international obligations to see what we needed to do to clear it in the context of those international obligations," he said.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley, a strong advocate of heroin trials, said the war against drugs had been lost before it had started.
"You cannot win it, so I am delighted the crime authority has brought sanity to the debate," Councillor Soorley said. "What we need is a comprehensive community-based education program to treat people who are addicted to minimise the harm and risk."
But Mr Howard said heroin trials were misguided, wrong and would always be opposed by the Coalition. And he warned that any state or territory attempting such trials would receive no comfort from his Government. Mr Howard also attacked the Opposition for offering qualified support to the proposal.
"They [heroin trials] are wrong, and that will always be the position of this Government," he said. "There is a very sharp division between the Government and the Opposition on this matter."
Mr Howard's outburst followed a morning press conference where Justice Minister Chris Ellison and Mr Crooke clashed over the issue. Prime Minister John Howard has savaged Australia's peak crime-fighting body for daring to suggest heroin trials as a response to the spiralling drug trade. Mr Howard used Federal Parliament to rebuke the National Crime Authority , which said the distribution of government-controlled heroin should be considered.