April 18th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Ex-Treasury chief slams Government and Opposition

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: China's Rio bid: Australia's independence at stake

EDITORIAL: G20 summit: end of the "Washington Consensus"?

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Can US dollar remain world's reserve currency?

OPINION: Time to put outlaw bikie-gangs out of business

UNITED STATES: Republican Party in dire need of a leader

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Finding the resolve to wage a titanic struggle

FAMILY POLICY: Promoting family-centred child-care

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY: Swedish social laboratory's disastrous legacy

HUMAN CLONING: SA parliamentarians misled by false science

PORNOGRAPHY: American feminist warns of long-term damage from porn

SCHOOLS: Teachers powerless to deal with unruly students

OBITUARY: Laurie Short: an Australian hero (1915-2009)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Regulation no longer a dirty word / Great orator Obama? / Jimmy Carter II?

Tribute to Laurie Short (letter)

Liberal predicament (letter)

CINEMA: The emptiness of a loveless life - Elegy

BOOKS: SAMUEL JOHNSON: A Biography, by Peter Martin

BOOKS: SOLAR CYCLE 24, by David Archibald

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Time to put outlaw bikie-gangs out of business

by John Ballantyne

News Weekly, April 18, 2009
Organised crime could be starved of most of its proceeds if only governments got serious about tackling the illicit drug trade, argues John Ballantyne.

A deadly brawl among outlaw bikie-gang members at the Qantas domestic terminal at Sydney Airport on March 22, saw one man bludgeoned to death in full view of horrified onlookers.

That somebody can be bashed to death in a public place - and especially in an airport where security and policing should be more vigilant than anywhere else - reveals an utter breakdown of government authority and the rule of law.

Reading of this event took me back to Sunday, September 5, 2004, when, walking down Melbourne's Russell St, I and at least half a dozen other eyewitnesses watched helplessly as four men assaulted a man of African appearance. They took turns in kicking him, striking him with a wooden pole and stamping on him. The dispute seemed to be over some unpaid debt, probably drug-related.

We onlookers quickly called the police and an ambulance. While we awaited their arrival, the four assailants casually walked away as if to show the world how little they feared the law.

The ambulance took away the unfortunate victim, now unconscious and bleeding copiously from head wounds. I myself offered the police my contact details and quickly wrote up the incident I had witnessed.

But I needn't have bothered. The police never contacted me again because, as I learned afterwards, the victim was unwilling to press charges against the four who had almost killed him.

Thus, on the official records, no crime occurred on that occasion, and no doubt the usual "experts" will continue to assure the public that, statistically, the crime rate is decreasing.

How has Australia reached the state where violent assaults can now take place in broad daylight and in public?

A major cause is the permissive attitude that our governments, both national and state, have shown towards illicit drugs.

Drugs are not some small boutique business catering to the whims of a private few, but a vast multi-billion dollar industry constantly on the prowl for new users and addicts and in a position to contaminate and corrupt public life.

Most of the public are adamantly against this pestilence, which disables or destroys the lives of so many of our young people.

Yet this widespread concern is not reflected in any meaningful way by our elected representatives. Few politicians are bold enough to confront the evil of drug-financed organised crime. Most of them prefer a quiet life.

It is by gradual, almost imperceptible stages that Australia has allowed the drugs culture and organised crime to become so prominent.

Along the way has been a deliberate softening-up process to change public attitudes towards illicit drugs. Misguided criminologists, psychologists, academics and social workers have successfully pushed the idea that, since it is impossible to police our borders and our streets sufficiently to stamp out the supply of illicit drugs, the only alternative is to decriminalise drugs.

They have even coined an innocuous-sounding term for this permissive policy: they call it "harm minimisation".

Perpetrators of this policy may have a permissive attitude towards illicit drugs, but not towards public debate of the issue. You will notice that advertisements for government jobs connected with drugs unfailingly stipulate a condition that job candidates are expected to support the government's official policy of harm minimisation.

So much for the idea of free speech and learning from our mistakes. Harm minimisation is a policy that brooks no opposition.

The oft-repeated argument that police and customs officers are limited in what they can do to control illicit drugs is at best only a half-truth. True, they are limited in their ability to control the import and supply of drugs. But a great deal can be done to control the demand for drugs.

As Australian Family Association (AFA) national president David Perrin has previously pointed out in News Weekly, Sweden has for many years pioneered a successful zero-tolerance approach to drugs.

Countless studies have shown that if you can keep youngsters off drugs during their teenage years, they are very likely to remain free of drugs for the rest of their lives.

Rigorously enforced

In Sweden, if a youngster is caught using drugs, he has to undergo a comprehensive detoxification and rehabilitation program. This is rigorously enforced by the Swedish courts (but does not mean that the youngster thereby acquires a criminal record).

By this method Sweden has succeeded in reducing teenage illicit drug use to about a third of the level experienced in other European countries.

Controlling demand for drugs in this way effectively controls the supply of drugs because there are simply fewer drug-related profits to be made in Sweden.

There is a crying need for this sort of reform to be adopted across Australia.

Until we do so, Australia will simply be the preferred territory for drug barons and outlaw bikie-gangs to conduct their business.

- John Ballantyne is editor of News Weekly.

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