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State pledge’s $45m to tackle Victoria’s ice scourge

FORTY-FIVE million dollars is a lot of money, but it remains to be seen whether it will make a dent in Victoria’s ever increasing and frightening ice epidemic.

The Andrews government is following up on its pre-election commitment to have a go at tackling the ice scourge and will introduce tougher laws, boost police powers to shut down drug labs and create better access to health programs.

It is only a first step and it has been widely applauded as a bold move.

Ice has crept up on the community and taken it by surprise.

It is highly addictive, dangerous and ruinous for those who are seduced by its euphoric power.

Widely available, it has gained a particularly strong hold in regional and rural communities where organised crime elements have identified a ready market among the vulnerable and disenfranchised.

Areas with high youth unemployment are particularly vulnerable, but ice has also become the drug of choice for people with jobs who have to work long hours to make ends meet.

Increasingly, the drug is injected so part of the Andrews program includes bolstering needle-exchange programs in regional areas.

New laws, including tougher measures to target those who push the drug near schools and those who allow their premises to be used for “cooking’’ or dealing the substance, will be introduced.

Police have long argued that one of the most effective ways to tackle ice is at the source, so they will receive $4.5 million to boost the forensic drug branch along with its intelligence operations.

Support for families stricken by the drug will also get extra support.

It is going to be a long, hard slog to win the battle against ice.

Organised crime gangs are sophisticated, ruthless and greedy. They preside over an immoral trade where money is king and life is cheap.

Our courts are clogged with victims of ice, but rarely do we see the Mr Bigs get the comeuppance they so richly deserve.

This government funding is welcome, but it will take much more to kill off this monster in our midst.

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