AUSTRALIA COUNTRY STATEMENT
UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON NARCOTIC DRUGS,
Dr Lisa Studdert, First Assistant Secretary, Population Health and Sport Division, Department of Health
Mr Chairman, distinguished colleagues,
Australia is again pleased to participate at this most important forum and to contribute to the important work of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
We strongly believe that international action and international exchange of ideas and information are essential to addressing illicit drug issues in a balanced and evidence-based way.
Collaborative work undertaken in this forum leads to practical global and national action that helps to reduce the individual and community harm caused by illicit drugs.
As you are aware, at the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs last year, Minister Fiona Nash highlighted Australia’s policy initiatives which addressed access to controlled drugs, and continued our commitment to tackling the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and amphetamine type stimulants (ATS), specifically crystal methamphetamine or ice.
Over the past year, Australia has significantly expanded its national response to the synthetic methamphetamine ice, in response to the recommendations of a Government appointed taskforce comprising eminent health and law enforcement experts. The National Ice Taskforce consulted widely throughout Australia, including in many rural areas, in response to growing community concern about the increased prevalence of, and consequent harms associated with ice use.
The Australian Government has adopted the recommendations from its Taskforce providing more focus to reducing the demand for, and harm associated with ice, while targeting efforts to disrupt its supply.
The Ice Taskforce advised that we cannot arrest our way out of the ice problem, and we need to provide
• more support for families and communities to address the problem;
• better communication and targeted information campaigns;
• more funding for drug treatment services;
• greater investment in illicit drug research and data; and
• better use of intelligence and international engagement to disrupt supply.
The resulting response is consistent with Australia’s position on a balanced approach to illicit drug policy.
Ice is a growing problem in many Member States and we look forward to sharing our experience with you at this CND, and in future CNDs as our implementation of this expanded, balanced response progresses.
Australia has also recently legislated to allow for licit cultivation of cannabis where it will be used for medicinal and research purposes.
Australia has always legislated in line with the 1961 Single Convention and is a proactive communicator with the INCB. Within this context, just four weeks ago the Australian Parliament passed the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016.
The legislation provides for a national licensing scheme to enable regulated cultivation of cannabis in Australia. Cultivation will only be licensed where it is to be supplied to a licensed manufacturer of medicinal products who in turn, will only be licensed where medicinal products are to be supplied under medical prescription and supply consistent with Australia's Therapeutic Goods legislation.
In the absence of regulated cultivation in Australia, doctors and patients have faced great difficulty in sourcing products from overseas, or in some cases, sought products form the black market with uncertain quality and safety. This legislation is intended to address this gap and in turn to advance research and the evidence base on cannabis as a medicinal product for the benefit of all countries, doctors and patients that may benefit from more knowledge about the potential medicinal uses. In preparing this legislation, Australia has also aimed to model how the spirit and intent of the International Conventions can be adhered to while progressing the science and understanding of the potential benefits of controlled access.
Along with the UNODC, and many Member States, Australia is concerned that many patients in other countries still have limited or no access to controlled medicines based on narcotics.
We are reminded that the Convention recognizes –“that the medical use of narcotic drugs continues to be indispensable for the relief of pain and suffering and that adequate provision must be made to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs for such purposes”.
Australia is a strong supporter of the UNODC’s position on improving the availability and accessibility of these essential pain relief medicines to all peoples.
During the past year, Australia is very pleased to have provided assistance to Ghana and Timor-Leste to establish and improve regulatory and legislative control regimes to allow these drugs to be made available to patients in severe pain, while preventing their misuse.
We urge other countries to also support the UNODC’s Global Program on access to controlled drugs to ensure more of the World’s citizens have respite from acute and chronic pain. Australia will continue to promote these access issues into UNGASS 2016 in New York.
The UNGASS meeting will debate the role of a public health and balanced approach to the World Drug Problem. Prevention activities and treatment for drug users are an effective and humane adjunct to law enforcement measures. The balance of health and law enforcement in approaching illicit drug policy has been a long standing theme in Australia’s National Drug Strategy.
In this regard, I again confirm that Australia opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, including in relation to drug-related crimes.
Australia will continue to press for global abolition of the death penalty and actively engage in promoting a public health approach to illicit drug use which considers a proportional response to minor or non-violent drug related crimes.
Mr Chair, Australia welcomes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly its modern approach to development and its focus on economic growth; trade and infrastructure; gender equality and women’s empowerment; and peace and governance.
Australia is a strong supporter of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. We recognise that while mainstreaming of gender issues into drug policies and programmes is necessary, it is also useful to have gender specific programmes and policies that account for the specific sociocultural needs and risks of women and girls.
In this regard, we should also commit to improving the gender representation in our international forums and administrations overseeing international drug policy because this is surely an integral part of effective gender sensitive programs and policies.
In closing, Mr Chairman, Australia is very much looking forward to a week of productive exchanges and preparations for UNGASS and to sharing experiences and challenges with Member States as we continue to address the World Drug Problem.