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Sample Paper on Globalisation and Drugs Use in Australia


The common challenge the government of any country faces nowadays is to seek the best outcomes within the globalised system – and the constraints and opportunities it poses. It is not an exception for Australia. While on one hand, the government of Australia ardently advocates free trade and lifting of international trade barries, on the other hand, it has to fiercely oppose the negitve effects of such an openness in its public policy in regard to drug use in Australia. Australia managed to develop its own unique approach to nationwide drug policy with strong bases and comprehensive coverage. However, it seemingly has to become more flexible and penetrating in order to survive the era of globalised and interrelated world.

The objective of this brief research is to scrutinize the Australian public policy with regard to drug use and challenges posed by globalisation. It includes identification of the problems that the policy addresses, its frameworks and objectives, its premises and and the values that underpin it, analysis of the practical implications and thoeretical implications, and possible criteria for its evaluation. The results of the policy are also briefly discussed and questioned. The key subject of analysis is the globalisation its effects on the drug public policy in Australia.

Evidence For the Need of Drug Public Policy

Labonte (1999, p.126-132) claimed that drug policy worldwide has rarely been based solely on rational evidence. Australian drug policy is not an exception. Many policy analysts acknowledged the lack of a strong empirical evidence base for drug policy. Calls for a wider evidence base for policy are still manifolds (Crosbie and McNiven, 1999). The key determinant of the Australian approach to drug public policy was not the sole use of an evidence base, but rather the perpetual quest for it.

The stated objective of the drug policy by the government is “to improve health, social and economic outcomes by preventing the uptake of harmful drug use and reducing the harmful effects of licit and illicit drugs in Australian society” (NDS, 2004, p.4).

However, evidently it is not only the health issues per se that underlie the national drug policy, but the economic effects from the possible disasters the drug use entails. The economic development and prosperity of the country is conditional on the mental and physical healthiness of its population.  Drug use contributes to significant illness and disease, injury, workplace concerns, violence, crime, and breakdowns in families and relationships in Australia. As the evidence below demonstrates, drug use bears substantial risks to the people:

  • Almost 10 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia in 1996 was attributable

to tobacco smoking.

  • Half the burden associated with mental health comes from heroin dependence and harmful use.
  • Illicit drug use is associated with around 1,000 deaths per year in Australia; however, these deaths are typically among young persons. Illicit drug use is estimated to have accounted for almost 2 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia in 1996 (NDS:HS, 2004, p.47).

Collins and Lapsley (2002) estimated that the economic costs associated with licit and illicit drug use in 1998–99 amounted to $34.5 billion, of which tobacco accounted for 60%, alcohol 22%, and illicit drugs 17%.

Taken this into account, a comprehensive and effective drug public policy is therefore rather rationale and should garner substantial benefits to the society in a long run. However, then the questions arises if the current drug public policy in Australia is comprehensive and effective, especially in face of challenges presented by globalisation processes?

National Drug Policy Framework and Objectives

The National Drug Strategy 2004–2009 provides a framework for a coordinated, integrated approach to drug issues in the Australian community. It is a successor of the similar national drug strategies launched in 1985.

The principle of harm minimisation has formed the basis of Australia’s national drug strategies since then. Harm minimisation does not disregard harmful drug use, whether of licit or illicit substances. It refers to policies and programs designed to decrease and avoid harm associated with both licit and illicit drugs. Harm minimisation includes prevention of uptake of harmful use of licit and illicit substances. As is stated in “The National Drug Strategy: Australia’s Integrated Framework 2004-2009”, harm minimisation aims to improve health, social and economic outcomes for both the community and the individual and encompasses:

  • supply reduction strategies to disorder the production and supply of illicit drugs, and the control and regulation of licit substances;
  • demand reduction strategies to prevent the uptake of harmful drug use, including abstinence orientated strategies and treatment to reduce drug use; and
  • harm reduction strategies to reduce drug-related harm to individuals and communities.

Wherever possible, all supply-reduction, demand-reduction and harm-reduction strategies should reflect practices that are informed by evidence derived from rigorous research, critical evaluation, (including assessment of the cost effectiveness of interventions), practitioner expertise and the needs and preferences of the individual client or consumer.

National Drug Policy Premises and Values

Upon analysis of the premises of the Australian drug public policy, its pragmatism and balance were recognised. The National Drug Strategy, in each of its permutations over its 15-year existence, has identified key philosophies underpinning the Australian approach: balance, harm minimisation, evidence-based practice, integration, social justice, and coordination (Fitzgerald and Sewards, 2002, p.18).

The Australian approach can be summarised by a policy community supported by a system that provides stability, and a policy framework that can bring people together at the policy table. I identified several key values in the Australian approach: independence; partnership; bureaucracy; checks and balances; and leading the community (Fitzgerald and Sewards, 2002, p.20-21). These values largely represent and are design to serve a broad community of Australia. This is especially pertinent to the value of partnership. Partnerships in Australian drug policy are connections between governments, people, ideas and institutions.

Partnerships between the Commonwealth and its States and Territories have been a compound of the Australian drug policy history since 1925. In all but a few areas of government, governance of drug policy is shared across different government levels. Health, law enforcement, community services, education, and employment and training all require coordinated action between the Commonwealth and the State and Territory governments. Managing drug problems requires partnerships between all levels of government.

The National Drug Strategy is one of only a few Australian national policy initiatives to have achieved wide support across Federal, State and Territory boundaries over this period (NDS, 2004).

Generally, the underlying values and objectives of the national drug policy are popular.

Community welcomes both a wider presence in the policy implementation and endorses the objectives of the policy. As sociological research revealed (DSS, 2002, p.45-48), overwhelmingly, the use of illicit drugs by adults was not accepted and increased penalties for the sale and supply of these drugs were supported. Most Australians did not want illicit drugs legalised and illicit drugs were more likely than licit drugs to be associated with the concept of a drug ‘problem’.

Analysis of Practical Implication of the Public Drug Policy

Implication of a drug public policy range from behaviour change to environmental change (prohibiting smoking on public transport; limiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in communities) and structural change (increased tax on cigarettes; laws prohibiting the sales of cigarettes to teenagers).
The process through which policies have been developed and implemented has differed considerably too – with some being the result of national community-based action; some being the result of agreement within a specific community (i.e. prohibiting alcohol sale and consumption); and others being the result of advice and public advocacy from professional groups (drink driving; prohibiting tobacco advertising) (Fitzgerald and Sewards, 2002, p.37).

Implication of Ducker’s Ideas for Australian Drug Public Policy

Drucker (1999) concluded that drug policy is often premised on emotion and a naive wish for a drug-free society. In its place, he proposes an alternative based on “human and pragmatic policies”: “It is time that we move beyond this drug fundamentalism and abandon our unhappy history for prohibition for more human and pragmatic policies that protect public health and support our democratic values. (p. 15)”

Australian approach very closely resembles the vision of Drucker. From its establishment as the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, the Australian approach to drug policy making has aimed to bring government and interested stakeholders to the policy table, and to design pragmatic solutions through debate, discussion and compromise. This approach substantially differs from other policy approaches, based on political conflict, government imposition, adversarial negotiation or application of ideological force (ANSD).

However, some argue that public policy still lacks individual targeting of the Australian population, especially with respect to adolescence use of illegal drugs. The state’s approach to drugs policy is based on notions of the ‘normal subject’ or the healthy citizen in which drug use is seen as a profound inhibitant of the norms of citizenship. It is claimed that this way it misunderstands the meaning of drug use for young people today and therefore fails to reach the young people and understand what is ‘a norm’ for them.

Evaluation of the Policy

It is supposed that the results of the national drug policy can serve as the best internal criteria for its evaluation. Therefore, statistical data based on sociological research is one of the best tools for evaluation of the policy.

As statistical data suggests (NDS:HS, 2004), during the life of the previous National Drug Strategy there have been a number of positive changes in the Australian drug environment. There has been a constant reduction in the prevalence of tobacco use, as well as a decrease in the use of certain illicit drugs.

Between 1998 (24.9%) and 2004 (20.7%) there was a fall in the proportion of people who had recently smoked tobacco. The proportion of the population recently using alcohol increased over the eleven-year period, from 73.0% in 1993 to 83.6% in 2004. Recent use of marijuana/cannabis rose and fell over the period, with the proportion of recent users in 2004 (11.3%) decreasing to the lowest proportion seen over the eleven-year period( NDS:HS, 2004).

Between 1991 and 2004, daily tobacco smoking rates dropped by almost 30% to the lowest

levels seen over the thirteen-year period (Fitzgerald and Sewards, 2002, p.11).

With regard to external criteria by which the policy may be analysed and assesses, it is extremely difficult to find any reliable set of variables and data for that purpose. The cross country comparisons are of no use to this end, since conditions dramatically vary from country to country and will not be a good mean to evaluate the effectiveness of the domestic drug policy.

With regards to the composition of costs and benefits of the drug public policy, almost all of the programs are covered from the federal and regional budgets .Therefore the money of tax-payers are consumed. Therefore, to a certain degree a comprehensive drug policy is unfair, since it channels the money of “healthy” tax-payers to those suffering from drugs. However, this is the cost of the general welfare.

Impact of Globalisation

Before continuing to describing the impacts of the globalisation on the drug policy in Australia, it is instructive to first briefly examine the relevant description of globalisation. The process of globalisation is extremely complex and encompassing. Virtually every one of the 2822 academic papers on globalisation written in 1998 included its own definition of the process, as did each of the 589 new books on the subject published in that year (GG). However, the definitions relevant to the drug sale and use are those pertaining to the free trade and information freedom aspects of globalisation.

Giddens (1994, p.78) interprets globalisation as “action at distance”, which has been accentuated in the recent years due to substantial advances in global communication and mass transportation.
A Dutch academic Ruud Lubbers defined globalisation as a process in which geographic distance becomes a factor of diminishing importance in the establishment and maintenance of cross border economic, political and socio-cultural relations.

The impact of globalisation on drug policy in Australia is mainly manifested in two spheres: first is the supply of drugs, the second is the availability of uncontrolled information and illegal (sometimes indirect) advertisement of drugs.

The free trade and lifting of trade barriers that globalisation brings and which were vehemently advocated by Australia, besides its positive effects, brings negative consequences too. International trade can generate destructive forces. In circumstances of compromised state sovereignty, the same technologies that facilitate legitimate economic transfers can be used to illegal activities, including illicit drug trading.

As Oxfam (2002) suggested, there is an increasing disparity in the globalised environment. Income from the illegal drug trade has been, and will continue to be, a dramatic income avenue in poor and conflicting nations. In its latest report on the impacts of globalisation, Oxfam (2002, p. 46) noted: “Illegal drugs-trafficking is an industry that generates some $500 bn per annum. As in the case of capital markets, the world has yet to develop institutions and systems of co-operation capable of responding to the problems created by globalisation.”

Australia can be regarded as one of the world’s immature drug consumer markets and could be a target for considerable profit making. This effect of globalisation is especially alarming in respect to close vicinity of Southern Asian markets, which is the largest source of illicit opiates and a source of amphetamine-type stimulants flowing to Australia.

To combat this adverse impact of globalisation, “Australia has made a commitment to work multilaterally, regionally and bilaterally to deal with drug misuse and illicit drug cultivation, production, processing, distribution, supply and trafficking.” (NDS, 2004, p.18). Australia also plays a major role at the regional level of Asia-Pacific.


Public policy can be a robust tool to promote health, but it is not always effective. Australia’s experience seems to demonstrate that change in public policy is the most effective when it is introduced to enhance changed community attitudes (rather than “to lead the community” (Fitzgerald and Sewards, 2002, p.11)), when the policy is supported by proactive measures of enforcement and responds to the on-going changes within a global framework. Even though, the current results of the Australian drug public policy are quite satisfactory, the policy-makers need to account for the challenges posed by globalisation and other on-going processes in order to keep the results at that level.

Works Sited

Collins D. and H. Lapsley, 2002, “Counting the cost: estimates of the social costs of drug abuse in Australia in 1998–99”, National Drug Strategies Monograph Series. No.49, Commonwealth of Australia.

Crosbie, D. and McNiven, C, 1999, “Drugs, Money and Governments 1997-98”, Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia, Canberra.

Douglas, I. R., 2000, Globalization and the Retreat of the State in Globalization and the Politics of Resistance. B.K.Gills, London and New York, Macmillan Press Ltd., pp.17-31.

Drucker, E., 1999, Jan-Feb, “Drug prohibition and public health: 25 years of evidence”, Public Health Reports, p.114.

Fitzgerald, J.and T. Sewards, 2002, “Drug Policy, the Australian Approach”, Australian National Council on Drugs, [Accessed Online 16th June 2005]

URL: www.ancd.org.au

Giddens, A.,1994, Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics, California, Stanford University Press, pp. 75-91

Globalisation Guide (GG), [Accessed Online 15th June 2005]

URL: http://www.globalisationguide.org/

Labonte R., 1999, “Globalism and health: threats and opportunities”, Aust NZ J Public Health, 9(2), pp.126–132.

Legge D., 1998, “Globalisation: what does ‘intersectoral collaboration’ mean?”, Aust NZ J Public Health, 22(1), pp.158–162.

Lubbers Ruud’s site [Accessed Online 15th June 2005]

URL: http://globalize.kub.nl/

“The National Drug Strategy: Australia’s integrated framework 2004–2009”, 2004, (NDS:2004), Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. [Accessed Online 15th June 2005]

URL: www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/pdf/framework0409.pdf

“National Drug Strategy. Household Survey: First results”, 2004, (NDS:HS (2004)), The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [Accessed Online 14th June 2005]

URL: www.aihw.gov.ua

The National Drug Strategy (NDS), [Accessed Online 14th June 2005]

URL: http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/index.htm

Oxfam International, 2002, Rigged Rules and Double Standards: Trade, globalisation, and the fight against poverty, Oxfam, Oxford. pp. 44-63.

“Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2002” (DSS), Drug Statistics Series No.12, [Accessed Online 16th May 2005]

URL: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/8390

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

URL: http://www.aihw.gov.au/

The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD)

URL:  http://www.ancd.org.au/

The Australian Study Center

URL: http://www.apec.org.au/

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