Deputy Police Chief to address drugs and media seminar

Published 4 June 2001

Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Walsh will be a special guest speaker at a public seminar to discuss drugs, media and policing in the Northern Rivers, to be held at Southern Cross University's Lismore campus on Tuesday 12 June.

The seminar, 'It's What the People Want', has been organised by SCU's School of Humanities, Media and Cultural Studies, to address the ongoing public controversy over drugs policing in Northern Rivers, in particular the police use of sniffer dogs to apprehend suspects. It will focus on current drug policing strategies and how these have been represented in the local media. It will also canvass legal and health perspectives on the local drugs debate.

As well Assistant Commissioner Peter Walsh, speakers will include Dean Gould (Editor, Northern Star), Alan Rawson (ABC Regional News Editor), David Lovejoy (Byron Shire Echo), Ralph James (James Fuggle Solicitors), and David Reilly (Northern Rivers Health Service).

SCU media studies lecturers Ms Fiona Martin and Dr Gerard Goggin said that the seminar will give people an ideal opportunity to evaluate and discuss the complex issues being raised in public debates about current drug policing strategies.

"The use of sniffer dogs in our communities has provoked strong public reactions for and against the current drug policing approach", said Ms Martin. "Many people feel their civil liberties are being violated, and the police in turn feel under siege trying to enforce the law as it stands."

"We're particularly pleased that Peter Walsh has agreed to address the seminar, as it's the first opportunity local people have had - outside media forums - to get a full account of the reasoning behind current policing strategies.

"We feel the university can provide a neutral space for people to get information about how the police, the media and other policy-shapers regard their respective roles in what's often called an 'unwinnable drug war'", Ms Martin said.

Dr Goggin explained that as media studies lecturers, he and Ms Martin were "very interested in the role the media plays in representing drug use and policing. A great deal of public debate and protest has so far concentrated on the role of police, courts, or parliament in restricting or controlling Drug use and distribution. We believe that the media plays a key role too, and this needs to be openly acknowledged and debated.

"On the night, as well as hearing from excellent speakers on this issues, the public will be given opportunities to ask questions and make comments", Ms Martin said. 'We hope that the university can encourage greater awareness of the issues surrounding the present drugs furore, and more informed debate", Dr. Goggin said.

The seminar 'It's What the People Want': Media, Policing and the Law in the Northern Rivers', will be held in Lecture Theatre Y205, Southern Cross University, Lismore campus, Tuesday 12 June between 7.00-9.30pm.

For further details, please contact:

Dr. Gerard Goggin (02) 6620 3608 (w); (02 6688 2247 (h); 0428 6688 24 (mobile); e-mail: ggoggin@scu.edu.au Ms Fiona Martin (02) 6620 3126; e-mail: fmartin@scu.edu.au

Media contact: SCu SCU