Tag Archives: kevin rudd

‘Alcopop’ tax rise: a clever move?

The Rudd government has raised taxes on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks, bringing them into line with spirits.

There’s no doubt the government will be arguing it’s an important step in lowering binge drinking rates, but I’d be doubtful whether that level of taxation will in fact have much impact – in fact, it’ll be interesting to see whether the change just leads to a transfer of use from pre-mix to more traditional spirits consumption. It’d also be nice to see the extra proceeds being used to improve prevention initiatives with the demographic that consumes them.

Government has a lot of catching up to do in regard to communicating with younger age groups of alcohol. YouTube is likely to be used more and more but that is really only tokenism. A concerted social media campaign is needed but I won’t be holding my breath for that one.

News of substance – drugs in the worldwide news

1. Ottawa Citizen – Recognize Internet addiction as a mental illness, MD urges. “Compulsive e-mailing and text messaging could soon become classified as an official brain illness.
An editorial in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry says Internet addiction — including “excessive gaming, sexual pre-occupations and e-mail/text messaging” — is a common compulsive-impulsive disorder that should be added to psychiatry’s official guidebook of mental disorders.”

2. The Scotsman – Methadone: ‘Too many use it as part of their drugs routine’. “THE Conservative’s Holyrood justice spokesman Bill Aitken is no stranger to controversy and his plain-spoken attack on the methadone programme has re-ignited the debate about how best to tackle Scotland’s appalling epidemic of drug addiction.
The debate about the effectiveness of the methadone programme has raged since its inception and there has always been opposition to the principle of handing out free opium-based drugs like methadone to addicts. But there is much in the basis of the scheme to commend it, not least that it has the potential to place those on the programme outwith the reach of criminals.”

3. Idaho Press-Tribune – Overcoming addiction behind bars. “A “professional dope fiend” for years, Daniel Brown says he got out of that life to help people who are in the same situation he faced. Now a drug and alcohol rehabilitation specialist, he’s part of what he calls an “innovative” treatment model at the South Idaho Correctional Institution.”

4. The Sunday Herald (UK) – Valium Nation. “It gained notoriety in the 1960s as mother’s little helper” … but now Valium is Scotland’s hidden drugs scourge, affecting thousands from all sectors of society. An investigation by the Sunday Herald has revealed a shocking picture of the scale of use of powerful tranquillisers known as benzodiazepines. Those abusing the drug range from heroin addicts to middle-class cocaine users, while others have unwittingly become hooked for decades after being prescribed the medication by doctors.”

5. Thaindian News – Police up in arms against drugs menace: Punjab Information Minister. “Expressing his concern over the drug addiction among youth, Punjab Information and Public Relations Minister Bikram Singh Majithia on Sunday said that the State Police is doing everything to make Punjab a drug-free state.
Though people talk about the menace, but no one seems to be prepared to come forward and check it, said Majithia while addressing a gathering after watching the play called “Armaan” at the Guru Nanak Dev University here.”

6. Science Daily – Emotional ‘Bummer’ Of Cocaine Addiction Mimicked In Animals. “Cocaine addicts often suffer a downward emotional spiral that is a key to their craving and chronic relapse. While researchers have developed animal models of the reward of cocaine, they have not been able to model this emotional impact, until now.”

7. The Herald Sun – Kevin Rudd’s plan to break gambling addiction. “Automatic teller machines will be banned in pokie venues in Victoria from 2012 in a war on problem gambling, Premier John Brumby has announced. Victoria will become the first Australian state to ban the ATMs from the floor of pokies venues.”

8. Bloomberg – Binge Drinking by Australia’s Youth Sparks Rudd Reform Campaign. “With 48 cans of beer in the back and a bumper sticker that says “Rum — So Much More Than a Breakfast Food,” Tom Dalfer headed to a remote Australian town last month with one purpose: to get as drunk as possible. The mechanic made the 750-mile trip to Trundle (population 370), to attend a Bachelors-and-Spinsters ball — a black-tie rite of passage for Australia’s rural youth.”

9. TV NZ – Alarm over binge drinking. “Drinking problems are rife on both sides of the Tasman and Australia is tackling the issue by targeting teens while NZ authorities insist it’s not just about the youngsters. One in 10 under-age drinkers binge every week in Australia, figures that mirror New Zealand’s binge drinking culture.”

10. The Irish Independent – Is Amy really the poster girl for drug abuse? “As if Amy Winehouse didn’t have enough problems, she has now been condemned by the United Nations. Speaking out against “coke-snorting fashionistas”, UN drug tsar Antonio Maria Costa described Winehouse as “the poster girl for drug abuse”.”

Kevin Rudd’s binge drinking obsession

I thought the write up on Crikey summed up the issue perfectly:

“Bernard Keane writes:

Booze. Gambling. P-rn. It’s everywhere, at epidemic levels, apparently, but luckily our politicians are on the case, ready to shake their heads in dismay and demand tougher regulation of stuff that’s nobody else’s business.

Even under the crusty conservatives of the Coalition, it’s hard to recall a moral panic being whipped up as fervently as Kevin Rudd, Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon are managing at the moment.

Rudd is claiming binge drinking is a “worsening epidemic” that is “getting out of hand” and needs to be urgently addressed. Steve Fielding, best known for using his PC in Parliament House to Google for p-rn, also thinks it’s a “huge” and “growing” problem, and has got up a Senate committee to consider his private member’s bill to restrict alcohol advertising.

But as Richard Farmer pointed out yesterday, there’s no evidence for any of this. Indeed, in historical terms the early twenty-first century is probably one of the most sober periods in western history in the last five hundred years. But you won’t hear any of that in the mainstream media’s reporting – inevitably replete with footage of inebriated teenagers – of Rudd’s dire warnings.

With a similar lack of interest in evidence, Minister for Zeroes and Ones Stephen Conroy has been busy trying to get Labor’s plan to regulate the internet up and running via ISP-level filtering to block child p-rn and “violent websites”. Conroy’s plan, which makes the previous Government’s unworkable Netalert program for PC-level filters look benign, should do wonders for Australia’s already quicksilver broadband speeds. But according to the Minister, the only people opposed to it are kiddy fiddlers.

And incoming senator Nick Xenophon isn’t waiting until July to get stuck into gambling (or, as it should be known, taxation for innumerates), pushing for a new set of restrictions on poker machines and gambling venues. Not to be outdone, Steve Fielding wants to impose a tax on them too.

All this is music to the ears of pressure groups and lobbyists who rely on public funding. Leading the charge on binge drinking was Professor Margaret Hamilton from the National Council on Drugs, an anti-drug body established and funded by the Howard Government and currently headed by former Liberal senator John Herron. According to Hamilton, the mere act of having a drink on a Friday evening sends the wrong signal to Australia’s youth. Daryl Smeaton of the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation – of which anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello is a director — also backed Rudd’s binge drinking warning.

These people doubtless do fine work in addressing the impact of alcohol abuse (however defined) or gambling addiction, but are also beneficiaries of the funding that will inevitably flow from Government efforts to be seen to Do Something. They have a vested interest in encouraging state interventionism in their chosen fields.

Then again the media also has an interest in hyping social problems. Drunken teenagers and gambling addicts make for great copy. Everyone loves a moral panic”.

The first post-Howard TV ads to screen

Noticed this press release today and although I’m a big fan of money being spent on prevention, it’s good to see the treatment sector getting some coverage. I’m assuming the specific reference to Dubbo alludes to this press release being sent all across regional areas and they forgot to remove ‘Dubbo’ from the broadly distributed one:


People who have issues with alcohol or drugs are being urged to seek help and get treatment as a new campaign from the Australian National Council on Drugs gets underway, highlighting the simple message ‘treatment works.’

Statistics now show over 230,000 children live in households where they are at risk of exposure to at least one adult binge drinker. 1.5 million people aged 14 and over drink alcohol daily and Australia has an estimated 300,000 daily users of cannabis aged 14 and over.

Anyone in the Dubbo area who has issues with alcohol or drugs – and wants to get help – is being urged to go to www.ancd.org.au where there will be an extensive range of phone numbers to assist people – the numbers will link people to organisations who are out there offering advice on where and how to access treatment services for people with alcohol or drug problems.

The ANCD highlights that there are now thousands of people around the nation in treatment programs at the current time run by an incredible variety of agencies helping people tackle issues and addictions. The ANCD points out that treatment programs can offer many gains for people and their families as they tackle their problems and achieve their goal to break free of their dependence.

Dr John Herron – Chairman of the ANCD – said ‘It’s now time for the community to be much more aware that treatment can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Treatment works.’

As part of the new awareness campaign a special television community service announcement which has been funded by the Humanity Foundation (a national philanthropic organisation that has a special interest in drug and alcohol issues) has been launched highlighting the message ‘treatment works’.

Dr John Herron said ‘There’s just no question that thousands of Australians right now have problems that they are not tackling. It is estimated that there are over 40,000 people dependent on heroin , 73,000 Australians dependent on methamphetamines (including ‘ice’) and over 50,000 Australian children living in a household where an adult is using an illicit drug.’

‘The message just hasn’t got through enough – and it needs to – because it is simple – treatment works. If you know somebody who is struggling, give them a hand or talk to them and support them – and urge them to take some action by talking to one of the many fine and professional help centres listed on the ANCD website. Every journey starts with a first step.’

‘Tens of thousands of people have treated their substance dependency problems. Although many believe that their problem is too severe or too difficult to treat, the reality is that there are many different types of treatment and assistance available and everyone has the potential to overcome their problems. On the ANCD website you can also access many real and positive stories of people who were in the depths of despair and never thought they could get their lives back together… and have now overcome their problems.’

‘By getting treatment you may become part of a support group. You are also likely to come across people on similar journeys who want to deal with their alcohol or drug problems. You are then being treated in an environment where people understand that you have a big journey ahead – and they want to help you achieve the goal.’

‘Treatment certainly can be a difficult process. It may be that it doesn’t work the first time, or even the second or third time as many people may relapse and need several attempts at treatment to resolve their issues. Clearly this can be disappointing for the person and their family. Dependence and its underlying issues can be very complex and difficult, however we do know that when people start this journey they will learn and grow from each episode of care and treatment they undertake and this will ultimately help them reach their goal.’

‘Research shows clearly treatment ultimately is the best place to put money when it comes to dealing with alcohol and drug problems. As far back as 1987 the RAND cooperation in the USA did important research on where it is best to invest funding to reduce drug use in a community. The results were very clear. Putting money into treatment is a tremendous investment for the community with not only less drug use but also less people turning to crime to fund their substance dependency.’

‘The members of the ANCD and I have visited many treatment centres across the country and we are never failed to be impressed by the quality of care and the level of dedication of staff working in these agencies – they are indeed extraordinary people doing extraordinary work for many people and their families and friends. They help people to get their lives back and they help people to heal problems. So many people that have been through treatment will tell you they feel better and look better and their relationships improve – because they’ve achieved the vital goal of getting control of their lives back. The first step is to seek the help and that’s why our simple message is ‘treatment works’.

To find out more we urge people to go to www.ancd.org.au

It’ll be interesting to see if the role and/or focus of the ANCD changes with the new government. So far it appears it’s very much business as usual.

Rudd and Drugs

Now the election is done, coming weeks will see some clarity come to the policy positions adopted by the incoming government. I’d like to make some predictions that are as staid and conservative as I believe the Rudd government will be in the ATOD area:

1. ‘Tough on Drugs’ will remain, perhaps with a rebranding.
2. No further liberalisation of drug laws will occur.
3. There will be no Federal support for other injecting room trials.
4. Drug Free Australia may be treated with a little more scepticism than currently.
5. There’ll be some increased expenditure around alcohol and tobacco prevention initiatives.

WHat are your thoughts? Am I being too cynical? I have a feeling I’m not.