Rattenbury signs ‘The Canberra Declaration’ on illicit drugs

Hear more from the Greens in the Canberra Times coverage of this story.

ACT Greens MLA, Shane Rattenbury, this week signed on to 'the Canberra Declaration' on illicit drugs - which calls for a more strategic approach to drug policy that views drug use through a health framework and focuses on treatment and harm minimisation.

The Canberra Declaration was also signed by a number of International and Australian representatives with expertise in health, justice and lived experience as well as state and federal MPs at a cross-party Parliamentary Drug Summit co-hosted by Federal Greens, Labor and Liberal members.

“It is clear that our current approach to drug policy is not working,” said Mr Rattenbury.

“Regardless of your position on the issue, the truth is quite a number of Australians take drugs. And that number is increasing.

“Federal and State Governments are investing more and more money into law enforcement, but this is not reducing the prevalence of drugs or the negative social and health impacts of drugs, and it is straining our criminal justice system.

“All the evidence shows that focussing on treatment and harm reduction is the most effective way to reduce the prevalence of use, and reduce the broader impacts of drug use such as crime and health impacts. The law enforcement approach is expensive, ineffective and has a high risk of producing counterproductive results.

“While the majority of the funding is spent on law enforcement, only about 2% of the $1.7 billion Australia is pouring into tackling drugs is going to harm reduction efforts. Our focus is all back to front.

“I have signed on to the Canberra Declaration, which calls for a broadening of illicit drug policy in Australia and focuses on putting health and community safety first.

“The declaration also calls for a change to law enforcement strategies to focus more on organised drug crime, rather than individual users and a broader publication of drug data to assist in the development of more effective drug policy.

“We also need to see greater investment in drug treatment facilities, and ensure that the services that are available meet realistic demands.

“The declaration signed is the first step in a long road to changing Australia’s drug policy, but it is an important step in trying to shift public discourse to focus on treatment and harm minimisation rather than enforcement.

“Allowing pill testing at festivals is one small example of something we could do here in the ACT. It's a simple initiative that could save people's lives. Politicians need to get focused on health and show leadership in facilitating these initiatives.

“The Summit this week really highlighted the need for political leadership - stakeholders from across the spectrum cited political constraints as a barrier to their ability to achieve better outcomes.

“It was great to see so many knowledgeable stakeholders at the summit, all focused on shifting our perspective in Australia from the punitive, 'war on drugs' approach to one that is primarily focused on treatment and harm reduction,” said Mr Rattenbury.

Contact: Ali Jaques – 02 6205 3897 or 0481 035 764