FiveAA Interview with Leon Byner
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview on FiveAA with Leon Byner, regarding the Australian Government’s new anti-drug campaign and local drug action teams.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Now, first of all let’s talk to the Health Minister, Greg Hunt.
Good morning, Leon.
Greg, you’re doing a media assault on this. Tell us why and what you hope to achieve?
So, as you say, ice is a killer and there are no safe levels of ice. So we’re tackling it head on, and there are three parts.
One is the law enforcement, and all up we’ve intercepted about 14 tonnes of ice shipments since 2013.
Two is treatment, and there’s about $250 million going directly into treatment services, and we just announced four new services, or 10 per cent of the national total, in South Australia last Friday – so higher than the national average.
And three is education. And the education isn’t to say how to use it or this is okay. It’s to say this can destroy your lives, but there is a way back through the drughelp.gov.au site, and that’s both for addicts or users and for parents in particular as well.
The research we’ve done says that a lot of young people do turn to their parents; a lot of parents are not sure what to do.
Yesterday I was at an ED, St Vincent’s Public Hospital in Melbourne, and they said exactly what you just talked about – the threats to nurses, to security staff and to doctors. They talked about just the sheer mental and physical toll on the ice addicts.
So our message is very clear – it can destroy your life, but you can take your life back and there is help.
Now, recently in the media, Minister, despite a wastewater survey in this state which recorded ice use in Adelaide as second only to Perth among capital cities, it wasn’t long ago that we only had two of 40 community-based Drug Action Teams that have been established. Has that been remedied?
Yes. So as of last Friday, we announced a second round. I focussed in particular in South Australia because – as you and I discussed – in the first round, whereas other state governments backed their Drug Action Teams, South Australia really kept its hands off the levers.
This time around, we’ve made sure that in Port Augusta, Whyalla, Murray Bridge and through the Adelaide Hills, and in particular in suburban Adelaide, there are new Drug Action Teams. That’s much higher than the national average compared to the population.
So that was a very good outcome for South Australia last Friday and it was one that I’d focussed on.
I know Nicolle Flint, for example, had worked very hard for that; Tony Pasin and Rowan Ramsey are some of the people at the federal level who said, well, if the state won’t do it, we’ll step in and step up the pace.
Peter Sandeman from Anglicare is one of many in that rehabilitation space who believe that in some circumstances, particularly with young people, when there is an ice issue there ought to be a mandatory rehabilitation for them.
And he says that the reason he thinks this is because, in mental health terms, we will often do that; when somebody is a danger to themselves or others we will do this, but we won’t do it for people who are addicted to ice. What’s your attitude?
So these are done through state laws, so it’s the perfect question for your next guest.
Which I will be asking.
But our approach is very simple, and that is ruthless enforcement of the laws on the interdiction of the supplies, which is making progress, but there’s still more to do.
And then, we don’t provide the treatment services, but we thought that there was insufficient funding at state level. I actually don’t say that as a criticism, because this is a national crisis. That’s why we’ve stepped in with a nearly $300 million Ice Action Strategy.
And through that we’re providing the Local Drug Action Teams, we’re providing assistance through the local primary health networks for treatment services. So we’re supplementing the treatment service funding with $250 million out of the $300 million.
Alright. Before I let you go, I’ve got to ask you something that’s very current today, and that is 20 Newspolls in a row the Government’s been behind Labor. Have people simply stopped listening?
No, I don’t think so. I think it’s always a tough science if you’re the government of the day, and our task is to try to keep delivering and to actually keep delivering on things such as Ice Action Strategy, electricity prices, bringing down the pressures, and in my space I’m now working on bringing down the pressure on private health insurance costs, which matter immensely to so many families.
It doesn’t seem to matter that you’re doing all of these things you say you’re doing; it’s not affecting the polls, is it?
Look, these things take time. I remain very focussed on what we have to do, which at the end of the day is to deliver outcomes on people’s employment, their electricity costs, their private health insurance costs, and as we’ve seen on the weekend, the costs of going about their banking, which in large measure came about because of pressure that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer had put on the banks.
Do you blame the intervention of former PM Tony Abbott in various debates for these poor polls? Do you think they contribute?
Look, I think it’s always up to the government of the day to make their case. So I don’t look around and there’s no blame directed at anybody.
I think this is my responsibility, and as a Cabinet and a Government we think of it as our responsibility. So, Australians don’t like buck-passing.
Greg Hunt, thank you for joining us. That’s the federal Health Minister.