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Key figures back decriminalisation

The report compiled for the non-for-profit group quotes public figures including former NSW Health Minister Michael Wooldridge and former West Australian Premier Geoff Gallop.
The report compiled for the non-for-profit group quotes public figures including former NSW Health Minister Michael Wooldridge and former West Australian Premier Geoff Gallop.

A GOLD Coast criminal defence lawyer has joined the push for Australia to decriminalise drugs arguing tough jail sentences do more harm than good.

Bill Potts of Potts Lawyers issued a statement last week agreeing with a report from the Australia21 think tank exposing the futility of the system.

"Most countries including Australia, still push the concept of using jail as a rehabilitation system," Mr Potts said.

"It doesn't work. It's time to try something else.

"Using jail as a means of controlling drug addiction is self-defeating.

"Prisons are awash with illicit drugs.

"Immediate decriminalisation of possession would take drug users out of the court system and allow resources to be switched from sniffer dogs and jailing of users to the education and counselling of young people, so that the drugs problem is attacked vigorously from the demand side."

The Australia21 report also has the backing of political heavy weights including Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

While the senator contributed to the report before he re-entered Federal Politics, Mr Carr released several statements to the media on Tuesday standing by the team who prepared it and outlining his views on the findings.

The report compiled for the non-for-profit group quotes public figures including former NSW Health Minister Michael Wooldridge and former West Australian Premier Geoff Gallop.

Even former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, who was responsible for prosecuting numerous drug offenders, states he is "strongly in favour of legalising, regulating, controlling and taxing all drugs".

The report does not suggest drugs be made readily available to the public but requests politicians re-open the debate about a taxable, decriminalisation regime.

It also goes as far to say that the illegal drug trade and its connection to organised crime is "killing our children".

Mr Carr, whose brother Greg died of an overdose in 1981, told morning news programs he was proud of his integral involvement in opening supervised heroine injection rooms during his time as Premier.

He said his support for reform however did not extend to the decriminalisation of all drugs and hoped political discussion would focus on making better use of police resources.

Current policy makers and politicians were reluctant to comment on the report.

Attorney General Nicola Roxon told ABC Radio there was not yet much evidence that decriminalisation drugs would stamp out the illegal drug trade.

On Tuesday afternoon Queensland Premier Campbell Newman refused to be drawn on the subject.

Topics:  bob carr campbell newman drugs law reform nicola roxon