The Government remains focused on slowing down the supply of ice, Federal Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor says.
- Minister says law enforcement is key when tackling ice use
- Ice is the biggest problem in Adelaide
- Analysis helps determine where to funnel funding for drug programs
“We clearly have a big problem with ice in regional areas, and we need to continue to go after it,” Mr Taylor said.
The latest National Wastewater Analysis Drug Monitoring Program’s report revealed methamphetamine, commonly known as ice, was the most consumed illicit drug.
However the program did not monitor cannabis, which is the most popular illicit drug in Australia.
The report traced the presence of a dozen illegal and legal drugs in wastewater at approximately 45 sites across the country in October and December 2017, which covers about 50 per cent of the population.
It followed three other similar reports since August 2016, but this one revealed that ice consumption increased between August and December last year.
“We now know about 8.4 tonnes of ice, of methamphetamine, is consumed in Australia this year. This continues to be a significant problem, because it was minimal only a few short years ago,” Mr Taylor said.
He said law enforcement was key.
“We know that there is an increasing involvement now of global organised crime in trading of methamphetamine,” he said.
“We have set up a series of taskforces to deal with this. One of them is jointly with Chinese law enforcement agencies and that taskforce has intercepted 16 tonnes of drugs.”
Similar to the report before it, this one also shows the ice problem is biggest in Adelaide and regional parts of South Australia.
Perth and regional areas in Western Australia and Queensland are also dealing with large amounts of ice consumption.
Cocaine consumption particularly in Sydney and New South Wales has grown and alcohol and nicotine remain the most consumed non-illicit drugs.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission manages the wastewater monitoring program.
Shane Neilson, the head of the high-risk and emerging drugs determination at the Commission, said the program measured the extent of the demand and location of drugs.
“Despite enormous amounts of seizures at the border and across the country we still need to, as a multigovernmental initiative, tackle the demand for the drugs,” Mr Neilson said.
“So the individual decisions made by many, many people across the country to take these illicit substances — and that’s the challenge.”
Government determines where to funnel funding
Mr Neilson said that while consumption of opioids — specifically fentanyl and oxycodone — remained high in regional areas, it was nowhere near as bad as in the United States.
But he also pointed out the wastewater analysis was unable to distinguish between the illicit and legal market for those substances.
“It provides the size of the market. What we then do is we then … [talk] with industry and medical professionals to understand what amount of fentanyl and oxycodone is being legitimately prescribed,” he said.
The wastewater analysis has helped the Government determine where it should funnel funding for law enforcement and drug programs.
It also informed a joint parliamentary committee’s inquiry into ice, which handed down its final report last week.
But crossbench South Australian Senator Rex Patrick questioned why that report showed his state would receive less funding than Queensland or New South Wales, when consecutive wastewater analysis reports demonstrated South Australia had higher ice use.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly, the chair of the committee, said he was not aware the funding breakup between states was an area of contention.
“You have to understand this is just one lot of funding, there are other also special programs to South Australia that they have been topped up on,” Mr Kelly said.
“The wastewater analysis is a very important analytical tool, it gives us a snapshot of where drugs are a problem.
“But I think it’s difficult to put a lot of emphasis on one analysis for one period of time. This is something the wastewater analysis will give us a good long term spectrum of what’s happening, a time series of data over a period of years.”