A comparison is drawn between the recently published White Paper “Tackling Drugs Together” and the Australian National Drug Strategy. While having many features in common, including a commitment to a intersectoral approach, the English White Paper is notably coy in its endorsement of the principle of harm minimisation, always placing inverted commas around the phrase. It is concluded that the authorities in England have come more belatedly to the recognition that in all probability drug abuse cannot be eliminated, only that its harmfulness can be minimised. Similarly England would seem to have initially placed more faith in the role of enforcement in controlling the supply of drugs, with strategies having as their aim the reduction of demand making a later entrance.
It is observed that a marked difference between the two documents is in their preparedness to entertain legislative changes in the legal status of drugs. Whereas the press release issued by the Home Office on the publication of Tackling Drugs Together quotes the Home Secretary saying “All drugs now banned by law will stay banned by law”, Australian policy has allowed, if not actively encouraged, a consideration of legal reforms.
On the other hand, where Tackling Drugs Together represents an advance on the Australian equivalent is in its adoption of performance indicators and clear objectives.
Finally it is concluded that both documents display a rather naive belief in the efficacy of education as a means of dissuading young people from using drugs.