Tough but on What, Exactly?

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 – 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 ‘The impact of illicit drug use on families’. Bronwyn is the chair of the committee. Here’s the transcript of what happened immediately after Dr Wodak had finished reading his opening statement:

CHAIR—We have your submission, which you put in in advance. I have to say, Dr Wodak, I was amazed by it—absolutely amazed. I had been used to you dissembling more—when I read things like:

… the Commonwealth Government has publicly supported a War Against Drugs approach since 1997. The War Against Drugs is marketed in Australia under a ‘Tough on Drugs’ label. Perhaps this is because focus groups disliked the ‘War Against Drugs’ label.

You go on then to say:

… the Prime Minister said in 2002 that “the 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, … parties …

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 Wodak—I 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.

CHAIR—I am aware of all that. Yes or no?

From that point, it gets a little heated. As Harry Clark puts it “Bronwyn B got annoyed during Wodak’s testimonyâ€?. Dr Wodak got annoyed too:

CHAIR—I just want an answer to my question—yes or no. Are you pro the legalisation of drugs?

Dr Wodak—My view is that people who try to throw mud—

CHAIR—It is not mud; it is a simple question.

Dr Wodak—and 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.

CHAIR—I just want to know where you are coming from. Are you pro drugs being legalised—yes or no? That is simple.

Mrs IRWIN—Chair, I do not think Dr Wodak is on trial here.

Oh yes he was. And here’s why:

CHAIR— …The point is that we are inquiring into the effect of illicit drugs. The government’s policy is zero tolerance. The government’s 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 government’s while taking the government’s 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 Wodak—The paramount drug policy making body in this country is the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy.

CHAIR—No, it is not. It is the federal government, because it controls what drugs come in and out of this country.

Dr Wodak—The 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 official—

CHAIR—They are subject to the Commonwealth.

* You can read Dr Wodak’s opening statement to the Committee here.

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Posted in government, levity, politics
9 comments on “Tough but on What, Exactly?
  1. Antonio says:

    Well once again Bronnie proves what a muppet she truly is. I cannot wait for the day she is stacked out at preselection. And may I say from all reports, her numbers are quite perilous indeed.

    One of the reasons that I am a Liberal is that I believe that liberal philosophy is the most pragmatic philosophy to be both borne out and in congruence with historical and scientific evidence. Bronnie’s unashamed ignorance and dogmatic absolutism has more akin to parties of the far-left and the far-right than the centre-right party to which she is unfortunately a member. Can’t we make her the Ambassador to Bahrain or anything to get her out of the parliament!

  2. The Devil Drink says:

    Not Bahrain, Antonio. They don’t have a zero-tolerance drugs policy there, you see, non-Muslims over the age of 18 are allowed to drink alcohol.
    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, might welcome her views.

  3. Christine Keeler says:

    Bronnie’s unashamed ignorance and dogmatic absolutism has more akin to parties of the far-left and the far-right than the centre-right party to which she is unfortunately a member. Can’t we make her the Ambassador to Bahrain or anything to get her out of the parliament!

    I think ‘dogmatic ignorance’ is more apposite in this context and, let’s face it, in a “career” running over a couple of decades Bronnie hasn’t been averse to taking a taxpayer dollar or two herself.

    But the poor old dear’s been a bit on the outer since her administrative skills as minister responsible for aged care were shown to be less Margaret Thatcher and more Jim Hacker. Still it’s good to hear her occasional squawks in the house about pointless points of order in her belated and equally pointless job application for the Speaker’s chair.

    I’d object to her getting a well-paid sinecure anywhere, though, Antonio. Straight to the scaffold with her I say.

  4. She’s not after the speaker’s chair again, is she?

    Why can’t she just find a grants scheme to rort and retire?

  5. says:

    Bronwyn’s four step guide to modern political theory. This week, Habermas:
    Step 1: Find and interrogate Juergen.
    Step 2: Hunt down all the other traitors and non-believers.
    Step 3: [censored]
    Step 4: Consensus!

  6. steve says:

    Isn’t this the person who knew so much about drugs that she wwas sacked as Health Minister after one day for arguing that drugs were not addictive?

  7. Adam Gall says:


  8. patrickg says:

    The government’s policy is zero tolerance.

    Sigh, what a total crock of steaming bullshit. Loved JWH, too: “I am unashamedly zero tolerance”.

    Uhhhh no.

    Embarrassing as it is for you Johnnie and Bronnie, Australia’s drug policy ever was, is and ever will be Harm Minimisation.

    You can call it “Tough on Drugs”, or “Mushrooms on Pizza” or whatever you like, really, the fact is that rehab, injecting rooms and methadone are Harm Minimisation.

    Sure, Alan Jones may hate it, but fortunately he’s just a dickhead and – in a dance as familiar as the Madison to him – the empirical evidence doesn’t agree with his (or Howard’s) frothings on this issue.

    Worse for Howard, his own policies don’t agree with him, either. Australia has a reasonably good harm minimisation infrastructure because

    a) unlike zero tolerance, it works, and has been proven to work all over the world.

    b) it’s a fuckload cheaper than zero tolerance, in lack-of-bang for your buck, if that makes sense.

    I just wish someone in the media had the cojones to call him on this Zero Tolerance bullcrap. Sigh. Makes me mad.

  9. derrida derider says:

    Zero tolerance for drugs? Does that mean the nice glass of red I had with my meal last night was illegal? And I must inform my GP of the legal peril he is in with his prescribing habits.

    Why is it that the term “drugs” brings forth the most disgusting hypocrisy? But then we all know Mr Howard has a great gift for hypocrisy.

    As for Bronnie, she’s just a known nasty piece of work. I suppose someone has to appeal to the deadshit vote.

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