One of the more depressing aspects of the world of politics is that it’s much easier to speak your mind after you’ve left it (the world of politics that is, not your mind, but you may have done that by then too.) Based on everything they’ve seen and learnt, an ex-politician has a real shot at putting together some pretty decent policy, especially since they’re no longer required to sell it to the public.

Which is why the views of the group behind this week’s Australia21 discussion paper on the likely costs and benefits of a change in Australia’s illicit drugs policy deserve to be listened to. The one-day round-table discussion in January that lead to the group’s report included 24 former senior state and federal politicians, experts in drug policy and public health, legal and former law enforcement officers.

The involvement of now Foreign Minister Bob Carr added an extra frisson to the whole project. Of course, he came on board in the lost years spent locked in his personal library between gigs as the NSW premier and now a front and centre member of cabinet, but he hasn’t exactly disowned his involvement for the sake of potential political delicacy. Carr speaks from the experience of a former premier and someone who lost a younger brother to heroin. He’s been on the media trail all week talking up the report, despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s firm view that “… we want to make sure we are supporting people to get treatment options and we are getting our police to do what they rightly should be doing, which is policing our laws on drugs”.

And today he’s blogged about the subject:

“Understand my position: I don’t apologise for going after the Mr Bigs. I don’t apologise for having a prohibition regime. But I think at this end of the scale, when it comes to personal use of ecstasy or marijuana, the best use of police time is not standing outside a nightclub or wandering around a train station with sniffer dogs. Those people aren’t doing any harm except, arguably, to themselves.”

Many commentators have sniggered at Bob’s blog, and after his recent PNG moment took great delight in telling him the foreign ministry was a little more serious than posting his latest thought bubble on a WordPress platform. But if Carr persists, perhaps we can expect more candid, pragmatic observations from a politician. Makes you giddier than popping the e-drug while loitering down at your local train station …

*Your beloved Crikey team have gorged themselves on a near-lethal combination of hot cross buns, chocolate eggs and orange juice this morning — the resulting sugar migraines have left us with no choice but to cease publication tomorrow and Monday. That, and it’s Easter weekend. May you feel similarly sick after over indulging and we wish each and every one of you a safe and restful break. See you on the other side in Tuesday’s inbox.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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