Former Senator and aspirant to the title of Australia’s own Iron Lady, Bronwyn Bishop, seems to have adopted a new role model. It used to be Margaret Thatcher â now she’s looking to the US and the example of a notorious former Senator.
On April 3rd, Dr Alex Wodak, was called before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on
unAustralian Activities Family and Human Services as part of its inquiry into âThe impact of illicit drug use on familiesâ. Bronwyn is the chair of the committee. Here’s the transcript of what happened immediately after Dr Wodak had finished reading his opening statement:
CHAIRâWe have your submission, which you put in in advance. I have to say, Dr Wodak, I was amazed by itâabsolutely amazed. I had been used to you dissembling moreâwhen I read things like:
â¦ the Commonwealth Government has publicly supported a War Against Drugs approach since 1997. The War Against Drugs is marketed in Australia under a âTough on Drugsâ label. Perhaps this is because focus groups disliked the âWar Against Drugsâ label.
You go on then to say:
â¦ the Prime Minister said in 2002 that âthe path to success does not lie in giving in to the drug barons; it does not lie in giving in to the harm minimisation philosophy.â?
That is a Hansard quote from the Hon. John Howard. You say:
Support and criticism of harm minimisation today is a division within, rather than between, â¦ parties â¦
Your whole submission is couched in those terms, telling everybody else that you are right and they are wrong. But you also reveal yourself to be a proponent of drug legalisation. You are pro drug. I would like you to deny it if you are not. Are you pro the legalisation of drugs?
Dr WodakâI have come along here as a medical practitioner with specialist qualifications. I have 25 years of working, running a public and private clinical practice in alcohol and drugs. I have published over 230 scientific articles.
CHAIRâI am aware of all that. Yes or no?
From that point, it gets a little heated. As Harry Clark puts it âBronwyn B got annoyed during Wodak’s testimonyâ?. Dr Wodak got annoyed too:
CHAIRâI just want an answer to my questionâyes or no. Are you pro the legalisation of drugs?
Dr WodakâMy view is that people who try to throw mudâ
CHAIRâIt is not mud; it is a simple question.
Dr Wodakâand make ad hominem attacks are basically saying that they do not have any arguments. I think I have a lot of expertise to offer this committee. I have travelled to 30 or 40 countries which I have worked in on official business. I think I have some expertise. I think what we should more profitably do is spend time talking about evidence. I am very happy to talk about evidence.
CHAIRâI just want to know where you are coming from. Are you pro drugs being legalisedâyes or no? That is simple.
Mrs IRWINâChair, I do not think Dr Wodak is on trial here.
Oh yes he was. And here’s why:
CHAIRâ …The point is that we are inquiring into the effect of illicit drugs. The governmentâs policy is zero tolerance. The governmentâs policy is the prevention of taking drugs. There are a body of people in this community who want to legalise drugs. The Greens have come out and said that they are pro legalising drugs. I want to know whether or not a person like you, who is taking my taxpayer dollars, as well as others in high positions with a voice of authority, is pro legalising drugs. It is a legitimate question for this reason: if we are to have a total policy and advertising campaign, as we have had against smoking and AIDS, there has to be a consensus in the community that that is a good thing to do. If we have an influential body of people such as you, who put out a different point of view from the governmentâs while taking the governmentâs dollar and is pro legalisation of drugs, the community is entitled to know that, to see whether or not we can have a campaign that will be supported by everybody. It is a perfectly legitimate question, and you can sling slings and arrows if you like, but that is my view.
From there, the exchange moved on to a discussion of who runs drugs policy in this country:
Dr WodakâThe paramount drug policy making body in this country is the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy.
CHAIRâNo, it is not. It is the federal government, because it controls what drugs come in and out of this country.
Dr WodakâThe Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy believe that they are the paramount official national drug policy making body in this country, and they say so on their website. If you care to look up their website [or Chris Ellison’s website], you will see that. If you tell the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy that they are not the paramount officialâ
CHAIRâThey are subject to the Commonwealth.
* You can read Dr Wodak’s opening statement to the Committee here.