$500 million drug seizure will not make one iota of difference on Sydney streets

Dr Michael Kennedy, a policing expert from the University of Western Sydney, says the Australian Federal Police’s recent seizure of 558kg of heroin and ice in Sydney is a significant haul – but there is still no cause for celebration.

“There is no doubt that stopping these drugs from reaching the streets of Sydney was a good outcome for the AFP,” says Dr Kennedy. “But, the truth is, even a seizure of this magnitude will not make an iota of difference to the availability of drugs.”

“Law enforcement authorities are well aware that, if people have the money and the inclination, it is not difficult to come across any drug in Australia. To say that this seizure will have any impact on the basic supply and demand of the drugs trade is nonsense.”

This latest seizure – which included a combined total of 306kg of ice and 252 kg of heroin stashed in 100 terracotta pots, with a street value of $500 million – was touted by the AFP as the largest amount ever seized by Australian police and border security agents.

In statements to the media, the successful operation followed the AFP’s most successful year in terms of drug seizures – with more than 14 tonnes of illicit substances intercepted before they reached Australian shores during the 2011/12 financial year.

Dr Kennedy, a lecturer within the UWS School of Social Sciences and Psychology, says this focus on the “success” of the Australian Police, Customs and Border Protection Service is an irrelevant distraction.

“It is very important for authorities to successfully manage the trafficking of drugs to Australia, but there should never be any suggestion that the problem can be stopped altogether,” says Dr Kennedy.

“This is not some brand name marketing campaign, where the points of sale and penetration of the product into the marketplace can be tracked and analysed.

“The drugs trade is an unregulated industry. Because we have no way of knowing how much drugs make it into Australia, and how much is in circulation, there is no way of knowing whether authorities are even making a dent on the industry.”

Rather than focusing on their successes, Dr Kennedy says the authorities should be focusing on the ‘multifaceted approach’ that is needed to have a real impact on the effect of illicit drugs on the lives of Australians.

“The fight against organised crime is just one facet,” he says. “To effectively manage drugs in Australia, there also needs to be a focus on public health and education.”

Dr Kennedy is available for media commentary. To arrange an interview, please contact the UWS Media Unit.


2 August 2012

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer