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Brady ‘Public and politicians wrestle with drug problems’, The Age, 8 April 1999. In recent years federal and state government policy towards illicit drugs has attracted increasing attention due to the rise in the number of deaths from heroin overdoses and the opposition from the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, to the introduction of heroin trials. Under this proposal, addicts would be offered the drug in super vised conditions in an attempt to stabilise their health and social lives. Since 1971, more than 20 separate inquiries have been held into aspects of the illicit drug trade and the associated health, legal and economic problems associated with it.

In the decades after Federation, Australian governments regulated the private sector and used state investment to achieve economic and social goals. It not only became an Australian way of government and nation-building—it was also followed by a number of governments throughout the Western world. Several factors had combined to create a consensus about the need for government intervention: ➣ From the earliest days of white settlement, the combination of Australia’s large land mass and small, dispersed population led to widespread recognition that only governments had the necessary resources to undertake capital-intensive enterprises such as construction of railways and highways essential to the running of an economy.

This would create jobs and increase purchasing power. By these means governments could maintain full employment which, after the calamity of the Depression, was extremely attractive to political parties. ➣ World War II forced Western governments to assume unprecedented centralised powers over wages, prices and industrial production to mobilise the economy and the workforce to fight the war. It acted as a powerful example of how governments could constructively intervene to the nation’s benefit.

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