A New Governance Structure for Drugs and Alcohol Policy in Victoria.

Preamble:

In 2018 Increasing public awareness of the limitations of existing approaches to alcohol and drugs policy prompted a wholesale re-examination of all laws and regulations relating to drug law by the Victorian Parliament.

The Inquiry into Drug Law Reform conducted by the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee of the Victorian Parliament last year outlined a number of key recommendations in relation to this critical public health issue.

The Inquiry chiefly recommended the implementation of a new governance structure in relation to drugs and alcohol to ensure that best practice is reflected in all future Victorian State Government approaches to this area of public policy making.

The Governance structure outlined in recommendation three of the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee’s 2018 inquiry focused on the establishment of both:

a) A Ministerial Council comprising all relevant Government Ministers with responsibility to drugs and alcohol including the portfolios of Health, Corrections, Mental health, Police, Education, Early Childhood Education, Road Safety and Multicultural Affairs.

and

b) An external Ministerial Advisory Council of key stakeholders and experts to counsel the Victorian Government on drugs and alcohol policy that will additionally include current users, recovering users and affected families[1].

The implementation of the governance structure outlined above will effectively ensure that the Victorian Government’s approach to drug policy is based on effective and humane responses that prioritise health and safety outcomes and be in accordance with the United Nations’ drug control conventions.

Platform:

Labor for Drug Law Reform emphasises the limitations of existing regulatory approaches to drugs and alcohol throughout Australia.

Labor for Drug Law Reform acknowledges the necessity of evidence-based policy in ensuring that the Victorian Governments approach to drugs and alcohol is predicated on effective and humane responses that prioritise health and safety outcomes.

Action:

Labor for Drug Reform calls on the Andrews Labor Government to fully implement the governance structure to drugs and alcohol recommended by the 2018 Inquiry into Drug Law Reform conducted by the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee of the Victorian Parliament as soon as practically possible.


[1] https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/images/stories/committees/lrrcsc/Drugs_/Report/LRRCSC_58-03_Full_Report_Text.pdf

Repeal of Public Drunkenness Laws

Belinda Stevens speaks at Press Conference regarding Tanya Day

Preamble:

Victoria is one of only two states within Australia that has failed to repeal archaic public drunkenness laws.

The repeal of public drunkenness laws represented a key recommendation of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody undertaken by the Hawke Labor Government between 1987 and 1991[1].

With the practical operation of these laws being found by the Royal Commission to adversely and disproportionately target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and having directly led to deaths of numerous individuals in police custody.

The failure of successive Governments in Victoria and Queensland to repeal existing public drunkenness laws has inflicted significant and ongoing harm on already marginalised communities.

The urgency of repealing all existing legislation relating to public drunkenness was effectively highlighted by Victorian Deputy State Coroner, Caitlin English, following the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day in 2017.

After being taken into police custody in Castlemaine, Miss Day was left inadequately supervised in a police cell and was found unconscious after suffering a significant head injury[2].

Miss Day died in hospital eleven days later.

The circumstances surrounding Tanya Day’s death immediately promoted the Deputy State Coroner to call for the abolition of all public drunkenness laws and underlines the necessity of this long overdue reform of Victoria’s penal code[3].

Platform:

LFDLR acknowledges that the failure to repeal public drunkenness laws has inflicted significant, unnecessary and sustained harm on marginalised communities across Victoria and Queensland.

LFDLR emphasises the necessity of immediately repealing all public drunkenness laws in Victoria and Queensland as recommended by 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Action:

LFDLR calls upon the Victorian Attorney-General, The Hon. Jill Hennessey MP, to immediately repeal Victoria’s existing public drunkenness laws as outlined within the Summary Offences Act 1966 and to encourage her Queensland counterpart, The Hon. Yvette D’Ath MP, to repeal similar legislation under her jurisdiction.


[1] https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2019/4/14/-80-orgs-call-on-premier-andrews-to-repeal-public-drunkenness-offence

[2] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-06/aboriginal-women-tanya-day-dies-after-injury-in-police-custody/10581650

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/06/death-in-custody-prompts-push-to-change-victorias-public-drunkenness-laws

Pill Testing Policy

 A best practice model for Victorian’s

’If we continue to do what we have been doing for the past 20 or 30 years in relation to drug policy, we will continue to get the issues that we face at festivals and other places every weekend and day in day out in Australia of kids putting themselves in harm. At least with pill testing, they have some information to guide their behaviour and we did see yesterday people changing their behavioural choices on the basis of the information they were given. The trial was a success and the lessons learned would be really valuable for the ACT and other jurisdictions around Australia’’.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly, after the 2018 Groovin the Moo Pill Testing Trial[1]

Preamble:

The success of the pill testing trial undertaken by the ACT Government and Harm Reduction Australia at the 2018 Groovin’ the Moo Festival represented a watershed moment in drugs and alcohol policy within Australia.

The prohibitive approach to illicit drugs currently prescribed to by all levels of Government in Australia has resulted in a number of unnecessary deaths of young people at music festivals and major events.

With the deaths of five young people in five months in New South Wales at major events last year being the most egregious example of the limitations of the existing regulatory framework[2].

The pill testing trial conducted at the 2018 Groovin’ the Moo festival resulted in 42% of participants committing to a substantial reduction in their previously intended drug taking behaviour and a significant proportion also choosing to dispose of illicit substances in nearby amnesty bins[3].

Drug checking tests were conducted with infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) at a fixed location on the festival grounds with Individuals that presented with a trafficable quantity of an illicit substance being denied access to the pill testing service[4].

With no individual who presented an illicit substance for testing at the festival subsequently being treated for drug overdose symptoms by health care professionals for the duration of the event[5].

The outcome of the 2018 trial and the successful replication of the results outlined above at the 2019 Groovin’ the Moo festival effectively necessitates the introduction of a pill testing trial in Victoria during the upcoming festival season.

The realisation of a pill testing trial would effectively ensure that the Victorian State Government’s approach to illicit drugs policy at music festivals and major events going forward would be based on effective and humane responses that prioritise health and safety outcomes above all else.

Platform:

LFDLR acknowledges the successful nature of the pill testing trial undertaken at the 2018 Groovin’ the Moo festival in the ACT.

LFDLR agrees that illicit drugs policy throughout Australia at all festivals and major events should be predicated on effective and humane responses that prioritise health and safety outcomes.

Action:

LFDLR calls upon the Victorian Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, to ensure that a trial of mobile-pill testing services takes places within Victoria by the summer of 2020.

LFDLR calls upon the Victorian Health Minister, Jenny Mikakos, to commission a study regarding the viability of establishing front of house pill testing services within Melbourne’s Central Business District.


[1] Makkai, T., Macleod, M., Vumbaca, G., Hill, P., Caldicott, D., Noffs, M., Tzanetis, S., Hansen, F., 2018, Report on Canberra GTM Harm Reduction Service, Harm Reduction Australia.

[2] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/five-nsw-festival-drug-deaths-explained

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jun/20/pill-testing-success-in-act-proves-it-should-go-national-organisers-say

[4] https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6090099/what-you-need-to-know-about-groovin-the-moo-pill-testing/

[5] Makkai, T., Macleod, M., Vumbaca, G., Hill, P., Caldicott, D., Noffs, M., Tzanetis, S., Hansen, F., 2018, Report on Canberra GTM Harm Reduction Service, Harm Reduction Australia.