Drugs army shame
‘ Strict zero policy not politically or operationally palatable’
THE Bulletin’s reporting of drug abuse within the Australian Defence Force raised some interesting points, and covered the story with supporting comments from General Peter Cosgrove and how there was no drug problem under his watch.
At least three major drugs operations by the Special Investigation Branch within the ADF in 2003 and 2004, involving several hundred soldiers is indicative of a potential problem under his watch.
While the number of those caught and disciplined for using or dealing drugs in these operations was low in comparison to the numbers suspected, there is a simple explanation for this. At the time there were limited powers available under the Defence Force Discipline Act.
Up until a few years ago the Act only allowed charges to be laid for the use of cannabis and possession of cannabis under 25g.
So at the time of these major operations the disciplinary powers were vastly different and resulted in administrative action only being taken in some cases.
This takes me on to my second point which is the scope of punishment on disciplinary virus administrative drug related matters. Essentially either may result in a notice to show cause, which is the accused having to show why they should be allowed to continue serving in the ADF.
Over recent years the hollow ADF approach of zero tolerance has been watered down to reflect tolerance, in some but not all cases. Another avenue open to detect drug misuse within the ADF is that of random and targeted drug testing within the ADF.
However, this is yet anot her f ai l ed at t empt t o stamp out the problem. The tests are easily dodged by drug users, whether it involves the use of false urine, the integrity of the testers and the relatively short time some drugs stay in the system.
The bottom line is that the hierarchy are well aware of the problem, and choose to manage it rather than attempt to stamp it out, as the fear of creating a rather large dent in ADF numbers created by a strict zero tolerance policy is not politically or operationally palatable. CHRIS WHITWORTH,