Parliamentary inquiry into ice outlines urgent recommendations for regional Victoria

Simon Ramsey

Simon Ramsey

A LANDMARK state parliamentary inquiry into the supply and use of methamphetamine has outlined urgent recommendations for regional Victoria.

The law reform, drugs and crime prevention committee's 900-page report, released on Wednesday, made more than 50 recommendations to tackle the state's methamphetamine crisis.

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It is also called for harm reduction programs and education programs to be implemented to support those at risk.

The hearing toured regional Victoria, visiting regional cities including Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, and had a particular focus on the destructive impacts of ice.

The inquiry was chaired by Western Victoria MP Simon Ramsay, who said the focus also needed to be on cracking down on the trafficking and importation of drugs.

"Our report recognises that we must attack this problem from every angle," Mr Ramsay said.

The inquiry also called for the establishment of a premier-led Ministerial Council on Methamphetamine to provide a co-ordinated and holistic all-of-government approach to tackling the problems created by drug use.

According to the most recent Victoria police statistics, Ballarat had among the state's highest increase in drug offences recorded in the last year, with a 41 per cent rise in this type of crime.

Ballarat Superintendent Andrew Allen told the inquiry that it was his "intuitive feeling" that the numbers of people being assaulted in family violence related to "ice" was rapidly increasing, but ascertaining an exact figure for the direct link between the drug and this type of crime was difficult.

In his statement, Superintendent Allen said datasets covering family violence often did not pinpoint the relationship between family violence and methamphetamine.

He said that in his experience, "concern for family members or the stigma and shame associated with ice use," often resulted in the family members not wanting to call police.

Instead, families called an ambulance, which resulted in the person's psychosis being dealt with in the health system.

Director of Emergency at Ballarat Health Services Andrew Crellin echoed Superintendent Allen's concerns.

He said there continued to be an inclination of patients presenting at the hospital who were "high" on methamphetamine and displaying extreme violence.

In his statement to the inquiry, Dr Crellin said medical staff at the hospital were regularly forced to restrain patients under the influence of ice for prolonged periods with either chemicals, sedation or restraints.

Drug-detecting police dogs could also soon assist officers in Ballarat as the state government ramps up its approach to tackling the ice problem in country towns.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells revealed earlier this week the government planned to rollout 11 drug dogs across the state to help crackdown on ice and drug use.

Eight drug dogs, trained as passive alert detection dogs, have been earmarked to be placed in regional towns for the first time.

There were also a further three dogs proposed for the metropolitan region, at a cost of $1.6 million across four years.

While the major country towns set to receive the dogs are not yet determined, Mr Wells' office has flagged towns in the western region, including Ballarat and Geelong, of being potential sites.

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