Talking with your electorate about drugs

drugs booklet

I just received the ‘Talking with your kids about drugs’ booklet. It came with a two page covering letter from the Prime Minister. The letter explains why the brochure is important. In fact, I don’t have any children of an impressionable age, so the brochure is actually not important to me or people like me. Distributing it to all households involves a substantial amount of waste.

The Prime Minister refers in the letter to ‘my government’ and ‘My Government’. Does he not have a proof reader? After all, he says he owns the whole government.

The booklet intends to “alert your family to the dangers of illicit drugs”. It turns out that drugs are dangerous. I recommend you text the kids straight away.

Here are some valuable communication tips from the booklet followed by what parents actually say.

“Express your concern and question their decision” “Are you out of your fucking HEAD?”
“Try exploring the main reason the young person took the drug” “You hate me, don’t you?”
“Talk about less risky ways of feeling good” “What about a nice bike ride? On the oval.”
“It is difficult to solve a problem when there is conflict” Take Iraq for example.

The booklet is full of fear-mongering. Although it urges honest communication it presents every drug as equally terrible. In fact, it lists 10 lines of ‘potential problems’ for cannabis use and only 4 for opioids. This undermines any credibility as an objective information source. The advice to adults is in a remote and academic voice; when I read it I feel like I’m being talked down to. It’s almost certainly a poor piece of communication, probably in the wrong medium.

However, its probable failure as a piece of social engineering overlooks its real purpose. The booklet spends as much time talking about the Government’s initiatives on drugs as it does about the drugs themselves. “The Australian Government’s commitment”, “The Australian Government’s efforts”, “The Australian Government has invested”, “The Australian Government has established”, “The Australian Government has allocated”, “The Australian Government has sought to”, “The Government has increased” and so on. Photo of the Prime Minister and two letters from him.

It’s a piece of political advertising and it will create the impression that the Government is ‘tough on drugs’. This zero-tolerance approach appeals to some core constituencies; families, religious right and older conservative folk. It presses all the right buttons for these people.

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