ARMY DRUG WAR

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - DE­FENCE WRITER RACHEL RI­LEY rachel. ri­ley@ news. com. au

THE De­fence Force has vowed to ramp up its hard- line stance against il­le­gal drugs as data re­veals al­most 80 Townsville sol­diers have been dis­missed af­ter fail­ing tests over the past five years.

Re­sults from the Aus­tralian De­fence Force’s Pro­hib­ited Sub­stance Test­ing Pro­gram, ob­tained by the Townsville Bul­letin through a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest, showed 33 Townsville army per­son­nel recorded pos­i­tive test read­ings for il­licit drugs in 2012- 13, 16 in 2013- 14, 15 in 2014- 15, 22 in 2015- 16 and 10 in 2016- 17. Steroids were the drugs most com­monly de­tected, found in some form in 26 tests.

That was followed by cannabis ( 21 pos­i­tive read­ings), metham­phetamines ( 19), am­phet­a­mines ( 18) and ec­stasy ( 14).

The De­part­ment of De­fence has con­firmed over the next 12 months it will fur­ther toughen its hard- line test­ing reg­i­men, tri­alling ad­di­tional hair and saliva test meth­ods to de­tect pro­hib­ited sub­stances, as well as cur­rent uri­nal­y­sis.

AL­MOST 80 Townsville Army per­son­nel have been kicked out of the Aus­tralian Army in the past five years af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for drugs in­clud­ing ec­stasy, cannabis and steroids.

The rev­e­la­tion comes as the De­part­ment of De­fence con­firms over the next 12 months it will ramp up its hard- line test­ing reg­i­men, tri­alling ad­di­tional hair and saliva test meth­ods to de­tect pro­hib­ited sub­stances, as well as cur­rent uri­nal­y­sis.

Re­sults from the Aus­tralian De­fence Force’s Pro­hib­ited Sub­stance Test­ing Pro­gram, ob­tained by the Bul­letin through a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest, showed 33 Townsville Army per­son­nel recorded pos­i­tive test read­ings for il­licit drugs in 2012- 13, 16 in 2013- 14, 15 in 2014- 15, 22 in 2015- 16 and 10 in 2016- 17.

Steroids were the drugs most com­monly de­tected, found in some form in 26 tests.

That was followed by cannabis ( 21 pos­i­tive read­ings), metham­phetamines ( 19), am­phet­a­mines ( 18) and ec­stasy ( 14).

Just one per­son was busted for use of opi­ates, with 10 caught for use of ben­zo­di­azepines and six for co­caine.

Many of the 96 of­fend­ing per­son­nel were caught with more than one il­licit sub­stance in their sys­tem.

Five ini­tial pos­i­tive test re­sults were later deemed to be neg­a­tive.

Six per­son­nel re­ceived for­mal warn­ings, one was cen­sured and two es­caped se­ri­ous pun­ish­ment af­ter self- re­fer­ring their drug prob­lems to se­nior of­fi­cers.

Three per­son­nel from the last fi­nan­cial year are cur­rently hav­ing their cases pro­cessed.

The re­main­ing 79 were dis­charged from the army.

De­fence Per­son­nel Min­is­ter Dan Tehan said the use of drugs was in­com­pat­i­ble with an ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient de­fence force as it could un­der­mine health, safety, dis­ci­pline, morale, se­cu­rity and rep­u­ta­tion.

“The use of pro­hib­ited sub­stances is il­le­gal,” he said.

“Pro­hib­ited sub­stance use by mem­bers leads to re­duced per­for­mance, health impairment and gives rise to occupational health and safety risks.”

The ADF Pro­hib­ited Sub­stance Test­ing Pro­gram was in­tro­duced in 2005 with uri­nal­y­sis as the mode of test­ing. At least 25 per cent of De- fence mem­bers are tested an­nu­ally.

A De­part­ment of De­fence spokesman said it could not pro­vide a specific rea­son for the de­crease in the num­ber of pos­i­tive test re­sults oc­cur­ring in Townsville from 2012- 13 to 2016- 17, other than con­firm­ing pos­i­tive test re­sults de­clin­ing in the ADF was a na­tional trend.

“The ADF does not tol­er­ate the use of, or in­volve­ment with, pro­hib­ited sub­stances, in­clud­ing the il­le­gal use of pre­scribed, or the mis­use of over- the- counter drugs,” the spokesman said.

“De­fence’s ap­proach to the deter­rence of pro­hib­ited sub­stance use is mul­ti­fac­eted and in­cor­po­rates pro­hib­ited sub­stance test­ing as well as health and drug ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives sup­ported by ap­pro­pri­ate ADF- wide poli­cies.”

In May this year, a former 3rd Bat­tal­ion, Royal Aus­tralian Regi- ment sol­dier was jailed for 3 ½ years for his part in traf­fick­ing metham­phetamine ( ice) and MDMA ( ec­stasy).

The sol­dier’s lawyer told the Townsville Supreme Court there had been a cul­ture of so­cial drug use among troops at the time of his of­fend­ing.

Dur­ing a po­lice raid in Novem­ber 2015, of­fi­cers found $ 6530 cash un­der the sol­dier’s mat­tress as well as

PRO­HIB­ITED SUB­STANCE USE BY MEM­BERS LEADS TO RE­DUCED PER­FOR­MANCE, HEALTH IMPAIRMENT AND GIVES RISE TO OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS.

MIN­IS­TER DAN TEHAN

scales and uten­sils for drug use. In the same month, po­lice ex­e­cuted a separate search war­rant of an­other sol­dier’s room where they found MDMA tablets, Vi­a­gra and a mo­bile phone used to source the drugs.

Com­man­der 3rd Brigade Bri­gadier Chris Field said De­fence had a long­stand­ing and firm “zero tol­er­ance ap­proach to drugs” and the hi­er­ar­chies within units at Lavarack Bar­racks tried to en­force that.

“We don’t think drugs are good for peo­ple’s health and they’re also not safe to use in the work­place,” he said.

Brig Field said the num­ber one con­cern was that sol­diers had ac­cess to ve­hi­cles and weapons, and led other peo­ple, “and that is in­com­pat­i­ble with drug use”.

Brig Field said 3rd Brigade worked lo­cally with Queens­land Po­lice to ed­u­cate sol­diers on the dan- gers of drugs and co- op­er­ated with any in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“Our view is that our peo­ple are ed­u­cated and they need to make a de­ci­sion to not take drugs, and they know that from the mo­ment they join the army,” he said.

“We have young Aus­tralians who are do­ing an im­por­tant job for our na­tion and we need to make sure we do that safely. We owe that to the Aus­tralian peo­ple.”

De­fence mem­bers who re­turn a pos­i­tive test re­sult for a pro­hib­ited sub­stance face ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion, which may in­clude ter­mi­na­tion, un­less there is a le­git­i­mate and med­i­cally sup­ported rea­son for use.

Most are af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to make a case for their con­tin­ued re­ten­tion in the ADF.

“The de­ci­sion to re­tain or ter­mi­nate a mem­ber who re­turns a pos­i­tive pro­hib­ited sub­stance test re­sult is made af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the mem­ber’s cir­cum­stances,” the De­fence spokesman said.

OUR PEO­PLE ARE ED­U­CATED AND THEY NEED TO MAKE A DE­CI­SION TO NOT TAKE DRUGS, AND THEY KNOW THAT FROM THE MO­MENT THEY JOIN THE ARMY

BRI­GADIER CHRIS FIELD [ PIC­TURED]

If you are a De­fence mem­ber hav­ing dif­fi­culty with men­tal health or with pro­hib­ited sub­stances, con­tact the De­fence Sup­port Ser­vice on 1800 IM SICK ( 1800 467 425), the All- Hour Sup­port Line on 1800 628 036 or the Veter­ans and Veter­ans’ Fam­i­lies Coun­selling Ser­vice lo­cated through­out Aus­tralia.

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