NSW govt unclear on ice inquiry response

·2-min read

How the NSW government will respond to an ice inquiry is still up in the air, despite the health minister's push to treat possession of the drug as a health issue.

The commissioner who led the inquiry, Dan Howard, has said he was distressed by the government's "hard-line'" approach to drugs.

The government has failed to act on his 109 recommendations delivered in a final report in January 2020.

They remain under discussion in a cabinet that's deeply divided on the issue.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who is leading the push for reform with Attorney-General Mark Speakman, said the pair had done "everything humanly possible" to advance Professor Howard's recommendations.

"I've constantly in the last 32 years, supported drug law reform and I have constantly supported and been to many discussions around issues like, for example, the injecting room at Kings Cross," he told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday.

"My view is that people who have small amounts of drugs ... should be treated in a medicalised way.

"Criminalisation should be reserved for those who are just rotten to the core - who bring in drugs to try and obviously supply drugs to others and so on."

Premier Dominic Perrottet told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday the government could implement new regulations and fund programs.

"My understanding is that on those recommendations, there is no requirement for legislative measures," he said.

Police Minister Paul Toole said last week he understood the government would be legislating its response in the remaining seven sitting weeks of parliament this year.

The government has already rejected five key recommendations, including scrapping drug sniffer dogs and introducing a needle syringe pilot program in prisons, but promised a "whole government" response.

The NSW Bar Association says a statewide decriminalisation scheme is one of four "no-brainer" recommendations that need to be enacted as soon as possible.

Prof Howard said last week he was "still haunted" by seeing Indigenous elders in tears at his inquiry as they explained the problems of some in their communities, as a result of the government's hardline stance on drugs.