Drugs army shame

‘ Strict zero pol­icy not po­lit­i­cally or op­er­a­tionally palat­able’

Townsville Bulletin - - Voice Of The North -

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,


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