The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care
United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS)
19-21 April 2016.
Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Civil Society, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem is an important occasion for the world community in our ongoing efforts to reduce the illicit demand for and supply of controlled drugs.
Australia supports the UNGASS 2016 outcome document, which is consistent with our own balanced and evidence‑based approach to illicit drug policy.
At the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Australia was pleased to sponsor Resolution 59/11, fostering international collaboration on alternative controls to scheduling emerging synthetic drugs and precursor chemical movements.
Over the past year Australia has significantly expanded our national response to these types of drugs, particularly the methamphetamine known in Australia as “Ice”.
A Government appointed taskforce comprised of eminent health and law enforcement experts advised we cannot arrest our way out of the problems caused by illicit drug use.
As a result of the taskforce findings, we are now putting more focus on reducing the demand for and supply of “Ice”, and the associated harms to individuals and communities.
Mr President, a key part of developing our response to this drug was extensive consultation with all stakeholders including civil society and young Australians. This has long been part of our approach to responding to drug issues and we firmly believe this is critical to an effective, humane response in any setting including our international forums.
In order to further enhance international efforts to combat the illicit flow of synthetic drugs, I am pleased to announce Australia has pledged an additional $100,000 to UNODC for the Global SMART program, which is helping many countries improve their capacity to gather, analyse and report information on synthetic drugs.
Another matter of great concern to Australia is the many people around the world who still have limited or no access to the pain relief provided by narcotic-based medicines.
In the past, Australia has provided assistance to several countries to develop domestic systems to enable these drugs to be made available to patients, while preventing their misuse.
To build on this work, I can further pledge an additional $100,000 from Australia to the UNODC to continue work on increasing access to controlled medicines for patients in need. We hope other member states will join us in this endeavour.
In the context of expanding access to medicines, Australia recently passed legislation to allow legal cultivation of cannabis, where it will be used for medicinal and research purposes.
Australia’s Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 ensures our compliance with the 1961 UN Single Convention on Drugs while enabling a sustainable supply of cannabis-based medical products for Australian patients, through a national licensing scheme for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
This legislation will facilitate more clinical trials and contribute to our knowledge of the risks and benefits of these medicines, which should benefit other countries and many people.
Mr President, Australia maintains its position that prevention activities and treatment for illicit drug users are an effective and humane adjunct to law enforcement measures.
We actively endorse a public health approach to drug use which considers a proportional response to minor or non-violent drug related crimes.
Australia will also continue to press for the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, including in relation to drug-related crimes.
In closing, Mr President, Australia is very much looking forward to contributing to a productive session, focussing on an evidence based and humane approach to the world drug problem and to progressing our united efforts to reducing the harms caused by this.