Australia bolsters efforts to tackle spiralling meth problem
19 Sep 2017 - 9:15
Sydney: Cooperation with China and other key drug-producing nations will be bolstered under a new strategy unveiled Tuesday to combat a flood of crystal meth into Australia that has seen ice use triple in five years.
With its street prices soaring, Australia has become an increasingly attractive destination for drug-smugglers, which has made it the highest per capita consumer of methamphetamine in the world.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said it was evident more needed to be done to halt narcotics reaching Australia and that could only be achieved by boosting ties with overseas agencies.
"We need to not sit here in Australia waiting for these drugs to hit our shores but we need to go offshore and do what we can to disrupt supply," he said.
"The demand remains so high in Australia that organised criminals from all over the globe are keen to get involved in the market."
An Australian Crime Commission report in 2015 found that while US$80 bought one gram of ice in China, the estimated 270,000 users in Australia had to pay US$500 for the same amount.
Keenan said intelligence showed China and India were key sources of the precursor chemicals needed to make ice, while China and Myanmar were notable manufacturers of the end product.
Distribution networks thrived in Vietnam, Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia.
The new strategy will involve reinforcing information-sharing arrangements with Interpol and Europol to better pinpoint organised crime groups.
Australia will also work more closely with counterpart law enforcement agencies in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Mekong region of Southeast Asia to smash syndicates and follow money trails.
The Australian Federal Police pointed to the success of a continuing joint operation between itself and China since 2015 which has stopped 13 tonnes of drugs, including six tonnes of methamphetamine, from reaching Australia.
But it warned the ice trade was dynamic, with new source and transit countries emerging all the time.
"Links between organised crime syndicates controlling the drug trade in Asia, Mexico and West Africa are becoming more established," it said.
Keenan said the plan was to "better focus and align agencies' resources and efforts" while helping train overseas partners and shore up political support to go after drug gangs.
"All around the world, you will find agents of the Australian Federal Police, of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, of Australian Border Force... working side-by-side with their counterparts to stop the supply of drugs from coming into Australia," he said.