The West

A group of Liberal backbenchers believes Australia should consider decriminalising illicit drugs including heroin and cocaine, saying the war on drugs had been a failure.

WA Liberals Mal Washer and Judi Moylan as well as Victorian Liberal Russell Broadbent all called for a rethink on the way the Federal and State governments deal with drugs and rehabilitation, saying the "zero tolerance" approach was wasting billions of dollars and causing more crime.

"What we are doing is not working and is even less likely to work in the future," Ms Moylan said.

All three Liberals yesterday attended a presentation in Parliament House by former ACT Supreme Court Judge Ken Crispin, a vocal critic of the current approach to tackling drug crime.

Dr Crispin said the vast majority of people in prisons in Australia were there because of drugs or mental illness. He said most would reoffend because they had not received proper treatment.

Despite the billions of taxpayer dollars put into combating drugs, the price of heroin and cocaine had plunged in recent years as supply had steadily increased.

"If we can't even keep drugs out of our prisons, how can we keep them off our streets," Dr Crispin said.

He said there was a growing link between drugs and terrorism - pointing to the current bloodshed in Mexico - and questioned whether drug dealers might one day get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.

Dr Washer, who sponsored Dr Crispin's presentation, strongly backed the call for decriminalisation and mocked the WA Liberal Government's hardline approach to tackling the drug scourge.

"From a medical point of view, this has been a dismal failure in this country and a crime against humanity," Dr Washer said.

Ms Moylan said the growing number of suburban drug laboratories was putting the public at risk.

She pointed out that laboratories often exploded due to the volatile chemicals used.

The West Australian

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