Hack, Triple J Interview with Tom Tilley

Release Date: 
22 July 2015
Transcript

TOM TILLEY:
We have a Coalition MP and Parliamentary Secretary Alan Tudge on the line. He's taken a keen interest in the damage ice has been doing in his eastern Melbourne electorate of Knox.
Alan Tudge, do you think we're having an honest conversation about drug use in Australia?
ALAN TUDGE:
G'day Tom, I think we're starting to and even discussions like this I think are really healthy. I've had a big public forum in my electorate, and I know that there's been MP's across the country who have been engaged in their electorates over the ice problem in particular.
This drug is just a highly addictive, highly destructive drug and it is growing very, very rapidly in Australia and it is absolutely destroying lives out there and we're determined to get on top of this particular drug.
TOM TILLEY:
Yeah and ice is doing damage to a lot of people. I think no one wants to back away from that, but Richard Di Natale was making the point that part of an honest conversation is talking about the benefits people perceive, they derive from using drugs. Are you happy to talk about that as part of that broader, honest conversation?
ALAN TUDGE:
To be honest Tom, I don't think that there's any benefit from ice. It is such a destructive drug. I've had so many family members, mums, dads, sisters and brothers who have approached me and talked about their loved one who has had their life destroyed because they have been addicted to this thing. Often they'll say to me that they only tried it once or twice and they became addicted.
TOM TILLEY:
Moving beyond ice and talking about about the other drugs. The most commonly used drug in Australia, followed by ecstasy, and then comes amphetamines, the broader category, and cocaine. Looking to those broader categories that are more regularly used, is talking about the reason people use those drugs, and the benefits they think they're getting from them, part of that honest conversation do you think?

ALAN TUDGE:
Listen I'm not going to be spruiking those benefits to be honest Tom.
TOM TILLEY:
But is it spruiking or...
ALAN TUDGE:
People can have those conversations and I think we should be having a conversation about what the evidence is that’s out there, including the conversation that Richard Di Natale has just undertaken in relation to what happened in Portugal. What happened in Portugal is different to what happened in Sweden and in other countries.
They’re the types of things we should have an honest conversation about. But unless there’s very compelling evidence that legalising a drug is going to have a positive impact on society, I’d be very, very reticent to do that.
TOM TILLEY:
Well we just heard the Greens leader in Portugal but as I mentioned to him, in Sweden the took a very tough approach and they also have very low drug usage relative to their European counterparts. Maybe we need to send you to Sweden to get the evidence there!
ALAN TUDGE:
(Laughs) It’s interesting and when you look at the Netherlands as well, and as people probably know,they decriminalised the use of small amounts of cannabis and that’s been decriminalised for several decades now. That did see an increase in the use of cannabis in those communities.
In Portugal, from my understanding, the prevalence of illicit drug use did increase slightly, but the…
TOM TILLEY:
Initially.
ALAN TUDGE:
(inaudible) drug use decreased. But at the same time the United Kingdom’s drug use decreased as well and they hadn’t changed their laws.
So the evidence is not particularly clear on this. What I think it would do though if we were to decriminalise and certainly we were to legalise, I think it would send the absolutely wrong message about drugs, particularly in the current context when we’ve got such a problem in relation to ice.
TOM TILLEY:
OK, I want to go to Luke in Sydney on that exact point Alan Tudge. Luke in Sydney, we just heard Alan Tudge say that if we were to decriminalise the use of drugs, it would potentially encourage people to use more drugs. You’ve been an addict and you’ve been able to get clean. What do you make of that point?
CALLER LUKE:
Hi Tom, how are you going?
TOM TILLEY:
Good.

CALLER LUKE:
I guess what I want to ring up and talk to you guys about is that Richard made a point at the beginning about people using drugs because they felt that it gives them something. What I’ve realised after 19 years of drug addiction , starting off with marijuana, leading into ecstasy, speed, then eventually crystal meth, was that I actually only- things were taken from me. After six months I’ve been clean now. I think that’s the most interesting thing that I’ve learnt.
For me I just got tired of it all. I want to know what sobriety is like now. I always used to want to try the next drug and find out what that experience was like. But now I just want to find out what it’s like to be sober and actually live life without them. I guess it was just interesting to hear his point on that people use drugs because it gives them something. But I found it took a lot away from me.
TOM TILLEY:
I’ve got a text coming in responding to Alan Tudge saying “’Perceived benefits’ Tudge, were you even listening? People take drugs to escape, for fun, to forget, to escape from boredom. If you don’t acknowledge this, you’ll help no one.” What do you make of that comment Luke?
CALLER LUKE:
For me it was never running away from problems, it was more about trying to change reality and live in a hyper-reality. I guess that once you get clean time and you look out at the world, you realise that it’s already pretty weird and you don’t really need those other things to bend your mind. The world’s already pretty weird as it is.
TOM TILLEY:
Alright Luke great to hear your experience, thanks for the call. On the text line, “I’d pay more to get my pingers from a pharmacy, that way I’d know what was in them and it would be infinitely safer.” Alan Tudge, could you see that as a potential solution where the government plays a greater role in regulating drugs so that as this person points out, there’d be more knowledge about what was in them?
ALAN TUDGE:
Obviously the government has a big role in terms of regulating pharmaceutical drugs, that’s a prime role of it, but I cannot see the government having a role in regulating illicit drugs, no. It would have to be a legal substance to start with before it could be regulated. I just cannot see us legalising some of these illicit substances in the near term.
At the end of the day, it’s actually not a federal issue. These are all state by state issues. But I just can’t see any state government, be they Liberal or Labor, legalising these illicit substances in the near term.
TOM TILLEY:
Certainly the federal government could play a role in any changes or reforms that do happen. Actually last year in response to the Crime Commission report, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, your boss, said that ‘the war on drugs is not a war we will ever finally win. The war on drugs is a war you can lose, you may not ever win it, but you have always got to fight it.’
What do you make of that comment?
ALAN TUDGE:
I think that’s absolutely right. As I said, particularly at the moment when ice is becoming so prevalent, it is absolutely something that all of us as a community have to try to come to grips with and be strongly advocating to people just not to even try it or take it in the first instance given it’s highly addictive properties.
That’s the overall message and really that’s my message overall for all illicit substances. Just don’t get engaged in it. Don’t try it. I hate these terms such as ‘party drugs’ or ‘recreational drugs’ because in some respects there’s no such thing. We should be calling them for what they are – illicit drugs and they can absolutely destroy lives.
I’ve just spoken to, as I’ve said earlier, too many people who have seen their loved ones transform into someone they do not recognise because they’ve taken ice or they’ve taken other illicit substances. I personally think our message must be to everybody out there, please don’t take drugs if they are available and dob in somebody who is peddling drugs.
TOM TILLEY:
Alan Tudge, great to have you on the show as always. Thanks for joining us.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks Tom.