It’s election time. So we can be guaranteed one thing, promises of spending. Well it seems the incumbent government has not had the intestinal fortitude to look to cut spending to solve the deficit, so we turn to the simple solution. Increase revenue. Although some may think that it is class warfare, the matter is simple. It is big government wanting to dictate how you live your life and wanting you to pay through the nose for ‘poor’ choices. It is simple, the prohibitionist state.
If anyone has seen the news or read a newspaper, both Fairfax or News Limited, you would be aware that Australia is at war. No, it is not a war against an invading army, or a terrorist organisation, it is a war on drugs. That horrible D word that politicians want us to fear. These drugs are both legal and ‘illegal.’ Many politicians, especially more high profile politicians like Alan Tudge and Tony Abbott have had numerous articles publish highlighting how bad the ‘scourge’ of ice is, and what resources we need to combat this horrible enemy. I think the matter is simple. Drugs are not the enemy! We have billions of dollars of tax payer money being wasted on taskforces to combat drugs. The Victorian Shadow Attorney General has highlighted his desire to see offenders under the influence of drugs be given harsh sentences. Let’s be clear. This is yet another approach to drugs that is all wrong. The government is creating this problem through their own actions. The first problem that they have created is a simple one; TAX!
The tax on alcohol and cigarettes is astronomical. Both sides of politics have stated that a pack of smokes should cost $40 AUD. At the moment, a premium brand of cigarettes, such as Marlboro or Benson & Hedges will set you back around $25 AUD for a pack of 20 cigarettes. Compare that with places around the globe. In Tokyo, that same packet is 420¥, or roughly $5 AUD. In NZ it’s $20 AUD, London, it’s $18 AUD and in New York City, it is $19 AUD. Alcohol is just as bad. To buy a Pot/Middy at a venue will cost between $4-6, this is barely even a standard drink. With a Schooner or Imperial Pint costing between $6-14. A six pack of Victoria Bitter will normally set you back around $15-20. This astronomically high price on the sins of life has just helped create a criminal problem. A problem that the politicians want to spend millions to fight, when they themselves have created it. This is once again compared to the world where a pint in London is $10 AUD, In Munich it is $6 AUD, NZ it is $8 AUD and in New York City a pint costs $10 AUD. Overall, these cities are generally lower than what it costs here. One contributing factor is the excess tax that government put on all the fun things. (With the exception of NSW, who just ban it all together). It is politicians love of tax that is causing us the real problems.
As much as professionals, politicians and the like seem to deny it, we like to let our hair down, have fun and enjoy the inhibiting effects that both legal and ‘illegal’ drugs have to offer. But it is the actions of these politicians that have led to some of the tragedies of recent times. Our desire to let our hair down has seen people turn to the cheaper option, illicit drugs and die as a result of ‘bad pills’ or bad mixes. The temptation for many to take pills is how cheap they are. One pill is roughly $20-25 AUD. Will last a few hours and do what multiple beers will do. Alcohol is the price that it is because our politicians have made it that way. Their desire to tax the living hell out of the ‘fun’ things in life has caused the issues that we have now.
The other problem is the prohibitionist state.
Mike Baird seems to want to have music festivals shut down because of the use of drugs at them and the tragic deaths that have occurred at a few over the past months. Victoria Police want them gone because of the discovery and arrests of a few people with a few tablets of drugs. Once again the approach is all wrong. Many suggest we take the European approach and give people testing kits to see if they get a bad pill or not. Who will pay for these though? If the kit is part of the ticket price it is a marvellous idea, if it is to be funded by the state, it is not.
Many may not agree with this, I know many Mike Baird and Victoria Police do not. Both want music festivals to be resigned to the pages of history. Both want more of the police state. They seem to think that arresting their way out of the problem is the way to go. VicPOL recently stated that they are left to ‘pick up the pieces’ but conducting roadside drug tests and detecting people leaving these festivals under the influence of drugs. As far as I am aware, this is their job. It seems like doctors and the police do not want to have to do their jobs. They just want it all to go away. A drug testing kit is very much a good solution at first. It does not solve the whole issue though. The police and doctors will just want it all prohibited. The first step would be to start stripping the sin taxes and give us our full strength alcohol back. I am sick of paying $10 for a can of mid strength beer at the cricket or AFL. Maybe, just maybe that will see people turn away from drug, especially based on it being an economical decision. I will go out on a limb and say to, it is time we start looking at legalising some of the many ‘illegal’ drugs on the market.
Legalising these drugs may just assist the police in not having to do their jobs. Something they seem so keen on. Many criminal organisations manufacture drugs and sell them. They then use the proceed to purchase illegal black market weapons and then have bloody battles over the drug trade. People such as Carl Williams, the Carlton Crew and Danny (DK) Karram are just a few names of criminals who have been murdered as a result of the drug trade. If this commodity was taken away from them, what would they be left to do? Obviously high risk criminal enterprises such as burglary and robbery. People who commit these crimes are often apprehended quickly. So is this not even more of an incentive to legalise ‘drugs’?
Why? Because it is clear there is a market for it. People seem to like using drugs. Especially when they are a lot cheaper than legal drugs. If a socialist Victorian Premier can look to legalise medical cannabis, perhaps liberal governments at State/Territory level and at Commonwealth level can start actually being liberal, reducing the size of government, adhering to their principles and letting people have personal choice. Rather than banning everything and spending millions of dollars doing it. What a waste of money from a party that claims to be fiscally responsible.
James Penny is a 4th Year law student at ACU