Thursday, September 28, 2006

MEDIA RELEASE: "Empower Local Communities"

Peter Kavanagh, the DLP Candidate for Western Victoria has called for a comprehensive, long term decentralisation policy based on the empowerment of local communities.

"Devolving power to the lowest level of government that can efficiently decide an issue is essential if people are to decide issues that affect them most directly. This is a long held, fundamental principle of the Democratic Labor Party," Mr Kavanagh said.

"Victoria currently lacks a comprehensive strategy for decentralisation. The ALP government's idea of encouraging industry and services around the state is merely hauled out whenever it wants to shore up support in marginal seats outside Melbourne," Mr Kavanagh said.

"At the same time, decisions are being taken at a State level that should be made by the people who are actually affected by the decision - locals."

"In Victoria at present the opposite is happening. The State government is vetoing developments against the wishes of local communities and allowing developments which are opposed by a majority of local people. Two examples happened in Geelong recently. Less than a year ago, sexually explicit entertainment at the 'Alley Cat Gentlemen's Club', a strip club, was approved by VCAT against the objections of the Geelong Council and large numbers of Geelong residents who were concerned, among other things, about the effects of this venue on local school children. Similar developments have been allowed in other parts of Victoria despite the objections of local people."

"In the middle of this year the State government vetoed the development of a Direct Factory Outlet in Greater Geelong, 'surprising the Town Hall'. This disappointed many Geelong people. Whether or not the development should have gone ahead is not the point. The point is that this is properly a matter for the people of Geelong, not the State government," Mr Kavanagh said.

"Moving the TAC to Geelong shows that the present State government's idea of decentralisation is to spend huge amounts of taxpayer's money in marginal seats with no improvement to services. This is not real decentralisation. The DLP was a prime mover behind the effective decentralisation plans of previous decades. A return of the DLP to Parliament, which is possible with the introduction of proportional representation this year, would see genuine decentralisation policy back on state and national agendas."

"Australia needs long term, coherent decentralisation strategies based on efficiently directing the future growth of government departments outside capital cities, providing government services to regional areas together with tax incentives and the recreation of a government sponsored development bank to encourage population and economic growth outside our large cities. Just as important, we also need to empower local communities to decide local issues for themselves," Mr Kavanagh said.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Setting the record straight

Gaining some coverage in the press is beginning to result in attacks from a variety of quarters, mostly from extremist elements. Two blogs, one “socialist” the other “exposing the Christian right” have recently attacked me over policies and comments that have received exposure in a variety of media. These attacks include falsely representing what I have said and criticising those fabricated comments.

It is claimed that I have said that “Mr Bracks is a baby killer”. In fact of course I have never said that. I have described the process leading to the ALP’s decision to remove all remaining protections for the unborn in this state and allow both late term and partial birth abortions. I have also described how Mr Bracks has been reported in the press to have made a secret pact with backbenchers guaranteeing the implementation of this policy after the election, providing that they do not make a face before he election and how he later announced to the public that he does not know if the matter will even be put before Parliament and if it is, he does not know how he will vote! I have said that the ALP’s policy will result in the killing of even healthy babies, some even as they are being born. Unfortunately, what I have claimed is true.

Both the DLP and I have been attacked as “racist and homophobic”. This is what opponents of the DLP consider to be intelligent debate! Actually it is a refrain often heard from primary school children these days. It is now common for young children when told, for example, that it might rain tomorrow to reply, “That’s racist!” In reality, the DLP has always stood firmly against racial discrimination, indeed the DLP was the first of the existing political parties to call for an end to the White Australia policy. It is actually the Left of Australian politics which demands racial inequality, i.e. discrimination on the basis of race, i.e. institutionalised racism. For the record, I certainly do not either fear or hate gays.

Another line of attack is to claim that the DLP will not win seats. Presumably, if the DLP's opponents were really as confident as they claim, they would not be bothered making the assertion. The fact is that prefernces could possibly deliver seats to the DLP in this election. There is no need to debate this however. Like a quarrel over who will win a footbal match before it is played, it is a futile debate. The Democratic Labor Party deserves to win seats, whether it does so or not however is up to the voters to decide.

Peter Kavanagh

Sunday, September 10, 2006

MEDIA RELEASE: Compulsory detox and rehab are the answer, says DLP candidate

Compulsory detoxification and rehabilitation, along the lines of the model adopted in Sweden, is the answer to Victoria's burgeoning youth drug problem, says Peter Kavanagh, DLP candidate in the 2006 State Elections.

"We need strategies that are both compassionate and effective. Drug usage should remain illegal. Users, who are not trafficking, however, should be sentenced, not to jail, but to treatment. Can we do better for addicts than helping or even forcing them to get effective treatment?"

"One of the biggest problems for families and for young people with addictions to methamphetamines ("Ice"), heroin or other drugs, is that they don't have the resources and the knowledge to manage the detoxification and rehabilitation process. The existing law also leaves families legally powerless", Peter Kavanagh said.

"Some institutions, most notably those run by the Salvation Army, are doing good work but there are presently bureaucratic obstacles to treatment and insufficient resources. It will be expensive to establish the infrastructure needed to adequately support detox and rehab services but this is what we need to do," Mr Kavanagh said.

"In Sweden, police are empowered to take urine or blood samples from those suspected of drug problems. Police and parents are able to request Court orders mandating detoxification and rehabilitation. With other measures, the result is that now around 3 percent of teenagers use illicit drugs per year. The equivalent Australian figure is 28 percent. Compulsory detoxification and rehabilitation in Sweden appears to have been very successful. We should learn from what they've achieved and at least try to develop our own version of this response."

See also Dramatic changes to drugs strategy needed, below, for more detailed proposals.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dramatic changes to drugs strategy needed

Our ineffective drug policies must be changed. Australia desperately needs a strategy that works. Sweden has shown that there are measures which can be taken, even in a liberal democracy, which are effective in dramatically reducing drug consumption and associated problems including violence and other crime. One element of this strategy is to empower Courts to require teenagers with developing drug problems to undergo detoxification and then rehabilitation. In Australia, decades of an inconsistent, half-hearted 'harm minimisation' approach to drugs has resulted in disaster for many young Australians and their families and a huge economic and social burden on our community.

Consumption of many drugs is increasing. We are witnessing the beginning of a scourge of crystal methylamphetamine hydrochloride, aka "ice".(1) The potential harm of this drug alone is truly frightening. Cannabis is misunderstood and is being consumed by ever younger people and, although the public perception is still in the context of the 1960s, the drug itself, through genetic engineering, is now around thirty times stronger than it was forty years ago. Its increasing use is extremely harmful to both mental and physical health.

Australian governments and law enforcement authorities take a relatively soft approach - Australians do not have to go far to see drugs being sold openly in the streets. At the same time Australian youth are officially discouraged from using drugs but given 'harm minimisation' strategies if they decide to ignore this advice.

Sweden has taken a very different approach and its strategy is working. Sweden has now cut drug usage by teenagers to three percent a year. (3) The figure in Australia is 27.7 %. (3) The Swedish strategy is comprehensive but at its centre is the introduction of compulsory detoxification and rehabilitation programmes for drug users.

An effective strategy will not be cheap, it demands funding the establishment of detoxification and rehabilitation centres on a large scale. The alternative however, clinging to failed strategies, will result in much greater social, as well as economic, cost in the long run.

If elected to the seat of Western Victoria, I will propose and work towards implementing the following initiatives:

1. Set the international best practice target of no more than 3% of teenagers having used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months.

2. Make teenagers the key focus to reduce the number of new users (studies show that those who do not use illegal drugs by the time they are twenty are unlikely to ever do so).

3. Ensure that information to teenagers is truthful, setting out the real dangers of illicit drug use.

4. Establish specialist detoxification and rehabilitation programs .

5. Empower Courts to direct teenage illicit drug users into detoxification and rehabilitation programs. This would be discretionary, on the recommendation of police, medical personnel, such as ambulance officers or parents.

6. Surveys and studies of teenage drug use to be carried out annually and reported to every Parliament in Australia.

7. Teenage drug use trends and strategies for reduction to the 3% target must be included in the annual report to our Parliaments.

8. Make the seizure of drug dealers' assets easier and simpler. The onus should not be on the Crown to prove that assets came from drug dealing, in order to confiscate them. The onus should be on drug dealers to show that their assets were not the result of drug dealing to avoid confiscation.

9. Vastly increase funding for and number of drug treatment places for voluntary patients.

10. Study the effectiveness of various rehabilitation methods and facilities and continue to fund only those that are effective.

by Peter Kavanagh
DLP Candidate for Western Victoria


(1) Australian Crime Commission, Illicit Drug Report, 2004 - 05, p.9.

(2) See, David Perrin, Executive Chief Officer of Drug Council of Australia in News Weekly, 22 October 2005.

(3) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Detailed Findings, p. 36.