Ice users in South Australia will be forced into rehabilitation under an election policy announced by Nick Xenophon’s SA-BEST party.
Xenophon made the promise during a social issues debate in Adelaide on Tuesday involving the three candidates for premier. Xenophon, Labor’s Premier Jay Weatherill and Liberal leader, Steven Marshall.
Xenophon says he wants to slash the use of ice by half by 2020.
“Successive governments at state and federal level have had not had effective strategies in place to tackle the scourge of ice,” Xenophon said.
If his party has the balance of power, he will seek to pass legislation establishing mandatory rehab and detox facilities for ice users within the first three months.
The debate was a picture of shifting alliances from one topic to the next, with Marshall and Xenophon teaming up to criticise Weatherill over child protection services.
They argued the Labor government failed to adequately respond to the recommendations of a two-year royal commission prompted by the arrest of paedophile carer Shannon McCoole that concluded in 2016.
Marshall criticised the Weatherill government for failing to have a dedicated child protection minister, and pledged that a Liberal government would appoint one.
“You judge a state by how it defends its most vulnerable, and on that Labor stands condemned,” Marshall said.
Weatherill was scoffed at by the audience when he attempted to respond to a previous question directed at Xenophon rather than address the child protection question that had been put to him.
The alliance was temporary however, with Weatherill and Marshall joining forces to urge the focus on poker machines be moved over to online gambling rather than Xenophon’s approach to what the Labor leader described as Xenophon’s “backdoor” attempt to “close down venues by destroying their viability”.
Xenophon said pokies “remain a going concern” and pointed to the Australian Hotels Association financially backing both the Labor and Liberal parties.
The SA Best leader moved between gambling addiction and drug addiction, expressing concern that sewage analysis of Adelaide showed the city to have the highest methylamphetamine levels per person of anywhere in the country.
“My concern is those country communities that don’t have wastewater systems but just septic tanks, and the fear that they have even higher use,” he said.
He is also calling for a significant boost in funding for treatment programs and for monitoring of their effectiveness.
The former senator said during a recent murder investigation in Murray Bridge, east of Adelaide, police were shocked at the extent of ice use in the regional centre.
“The fact that a senior respected police officer was shocked by what was found is a wake-up call for all of us,” Xenophon said.
Weatherill also referenced the “scourge of ice” when he used the debate to launch a $70m commitment to outreach and support services for suicide prevention.
As ever in South Australian politics, energy was never far from the conversation. Marshall criticised Xenophon for a lack of detail of how his non-for-profit energy retailer would work, and attacked Labor for abandoning baseload power for intermittent renewables, pointing to his policy for a new interconnector with New South Wales and a $100m household battery storage scheme.
Xenophon spruiked his role in securing a concessional loan from the Turnbull government for the Aurora solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, and said his support for a new interconnector would depend on it being “modelled appropriately”.
Weatherill framed the power prices issue as one of a lack of competition, urging a rollout of more power generation. “The way you smash control of large gentailers is to introduce new forms of generation and retail it,” he said.
“They’re screwing us because they’ve got the power to screw us.”
Digital inclusion was another hot topic, with Weatherill pledging the Labor government would supply laptops to every year 10, 11 and 12 student in the state.
Xenophon said SA-Best would focus on using libraries as hubs of digital inclusion, and Marshall highlighted a $10m commitment to rolling out better internet access in regional areas.
Questions were sourced from online submissions made by the public and pulled out of red, blue and orange hats, representing the colours of the three major parties, to the amusement of Marshall.
“It’s like we’re on a game show,” he said.
- With Australian Associated Press