Australia21 is an independent, non-profit organisation involved in multidisciplinary research and inquiry on issues of strategic importance to Australia. Its concern with public health is not surprising given that its board members include Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas and physician/law reform advocate Dr Alex Wodak.

It recently released a report titled “The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen” (available here).

The report arose out of a roundtable meeting held earlier this year in response to a 2011 statement by the Global Commission urging all countries to revisit their drug policies in view of the failure of the “war on drugs”. It calls on governments to explore alternatives to prohibition and says: “By maintaining prohibition and suppressing or avoiding debate about its costs and benefits, it can be argued justifiably that our governments and other community leaders are standing idly by while our children are killed.”

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Below are links to a series of related articles that ran at The Conversation (thanks to Reema Rattan for providing this wrap).


Back to the future – the war on drugs we never had to have

Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology and Codirector of Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre at University of Technology, Sydney

It’s 1974 again.

I am 25 and a member of Lionel Murphy’s national Drug Advisory Council. Occasionally I am a drug educator with my mate, psychologist Simon Haselton, for the NSW Health department.

As a junior sociology lecturer, I am working on my PhD about Surry Hills, one part of which is on the sociology of the emerging drug scene. Somehow I am mates with Don Chipp, whom I had met when he was Customs Minister responsible for drugs, and head of customs Alan Carmody.


The War on Drugs has failed – now what?

Alex Wodak, Director, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent’s Hospital at St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst

It’s official – the so-called War on Drugs has failed. A report released by thinktank Australia21 in parliament today makes it clear that not only has it failed miserably, but that political elites around the world have known this for a long time.

If, however, the aim of the War on Drugs was to create a dynamic and vigorous black market, and provide an ever-expanding variety of drugs of increasing purity at lower and lower prices while enriching organised crime, bikie gangs and corrupt police, then drug prohibition has been an overwhelming success.


The internet poses unique challenges for drug prohibition

Monica Barratt, Research Fellow at Curtin University

The Australia21 report argues the “war on drugs” has failed and we should consider other options for controlling drugs, such as decriminalisation or regulation. In addition to these arguments, an important challenge for drug prohibition has been overlooked in the drugs debate so far: the internet.

While the internet has opened up new opportunities to buy drugs, it has also accelerated new drug trends. In the past year, we’ve seen the emergence of two key trends: synthetic cannabinoids (sold as Kronic, K2, Spice, among other names) and the anonymous online marketplace Silk Road.


Decriminalisation or legalisation: injecting evidence in the drug law reform debate

Alison Ritter, Professor & Specialist in Drug Policy at University of New South Wales

We should all be concerned about our laws on illegal drugs because they affect all of us – people who use drugs; who have family members using drugs; health professionals seeing people for drug-related problems; ambulance and police officers in the front line of drug harms; and all of us who pay high insurance premiums because drug-related crime is extensive.

Drug-related offences also take up the lion’s share of the work of police, courts and prisons. But what can we do? Some people feel that we should legalise drugs – treat them like alcohol and tobacco, as regulated products. And legalisation doesn’t necessarily need to apply for every illegal drug.


Good cop, bad cop: how corrupt police work with drug dealers

Mike Pottenger Lecturer at University of Melbourne

The Australia21 report on illicit drugs draws much-needed attention to many serious issues, including the major role played by corrupt police in drug distribution networks.

The role played by drugs in police corruption is complex, and bears consideration when evaluating the report and arguments for a change in policy.

The connection between the illegal drugs markets and police corruption is well known. Booms in illegal drug markets in the US in the 1990s, for example, corresponded with a rise in police corruption and violent misconduct.


Rap sheet: does Bob Carr’s record on drug reform stand up?

Alex Steel University of New South Wales

The Australia21 thinktank has today released a report describing the war on drugs as a failure.

Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr, part of the working group that developed the report, today told the ABC he supported decriminalisation of small amounts of drugs.

Carr said: “We wouldn’t have armies of police patrolling outside nightclubs and pubs hoping to snatch someone who’s got an ecstasy tablet in his or her pocket of purse. And we wouldn’t be having police chasing individual users of marijuana.”


Time for Australia to abandon ‘failed war on drugs’ (an overview of the report)

Justin Norrie, News Editor, The Conversation

Australia must abandon its failed war on drugs and reopen the debate over legalising and regulating their use, according to a report to be released tomorrow.

The report, emotively titled “The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are letting it happen”, is the work of non-profit body Australia21 and based on a roundtable attended by former premiers and health ministers, and a former police commissioner, among other high-profile figures








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