PROFESSOR Richard Murray’s appointment to the National Ice Taskforce will sharpen its focus on stronger outcomes for regional Australia, says Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash.
The Taskforce was announced by the Coalition government earlier this month and met for the first time this week in Sydney.
Senator Nash said Professor Murray was a former president of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine which would help sharpen the Taskforce’s capacity to focus on rural solutions.
He is currently Dean of the College of Medicine and Dentistry at James Cook University and was named on the Taskforce this week along with Dr Sally McCarthy, emergency physician and former president of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine.
“Given ice use is such a serious issue in rural and regional communities, I’m particularly pleased to have someone of Prof Murray’s rural and regional credentials on the taskforce as well as someone with Dr McCarthy’s frontline emergency experience," Senator Nash said.
“Ice affects the whole community and I look forward to input from the entire community as the Taskforce undertakes its research and report, which will identify what’s working and what isn’t in the national approach to ice,” she said.
Former Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Ken Lay will chair the committee, which is seeking to devise a national strategy to help curtail the drug’s escalating use across community sectors, especially the bush.
Senator Nash recently told Fairfax Media it was “particularly apparent” that rural and regional communities are being heavily affected by the dramatic escalation of ice use over the past few years.
“There’s certainly been a rapid escalation over the last couple of years in regional communities of the use of ice,” she said.
“Anecdotally people are saying to me they’ve heard about it being used in everything – from regional football clubs to shearing sheds.”
Senator Nash made the announcement of the new Taskforce members this week, along with Justice Minister and Western Australian Liberal MP Michael Keenan.
“The overall purpose of the Taskforce will be to examine all existing efforts to address ice and identify ways to take a systematic, comprehensive and coordinated approach to education, health and law enforcement,” they said in a statement.
“The Taskforce will consult widely to ensure that all aspects of this menace are being addressed.”
Mr Keenan said: “sadly our nation’s growing addiction to this mind-eating, personality-distorting, life-ending drug is paying big dividends to the organised criminal syndicates that are profiting from its misery”.
“In recent years we’ve seen the creep of ice use stretch across the nation, with individuals from all levels of society succumbing to its depravity,” he said.
“The Australian Crime Commission considers ice poses the highest risk of all illicit drugs to our community with the rates of its use almost doubling in the last year.
“Despite the efforts of law enforcement we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. The demand for ice is attracting international supply and this has been the catalyst for the mounting harm and havoc inflicted on our communities – particularly rural and regional communities.”
The Taskforce is expected to meet regularly and deliver an interim report in mid-2015, to be considered by the Council of Australian Governments before a final strategy is put to the Council before the end of this year.
Submissions to the National Ice Taskforce can be made at: www.dpmc.gov.au/taskforces/national-ice-taskforce.