Senator David Bushby speaks about recent drug probe in Portugal

Launceston-based Tasmanian Liberal Senator David Bushby has conceded Australia is losing in the war against drug use and new approaches are needed.

Senator Bushby was part of a delegation that visited Portugal recently to observe its treatment of drug problems as part of a parliamentary committee investigating crystal methamphetamine use in Australia.

Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001.

Although illicit drugs remain illegal, the prospect of prison sentences for addicts and recreational users has been replaced by other sanctions and drug treatment options.

Senator Bushby said that while Portugal’s approach to illicit drugs worked for them, there was nothing to suggest the method would translate in Australia.

"I think it's worth us looking at what they've done and seeing whether the approach they've taken is valuable for us in Australia," Senator Bushby said.

"But if we were going to do it, we would not to make sure we tailor it to the sort of problems we have.

"Ultimately, they've got three drug deaths in a million per year. We're current at 70."

He maintained that Australia’s strict drug enforcement should remain but there was perhaps scope to complement this with other methods of dissuasion.

“What we are doing isn’t delivering good enough results,” he said.

Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh said parts of Portugal’s drug policy were likely to work in Australia.

Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim said it was heartening to see Labor and Liberal parliamentarians broaden their views on the war on drugs.

He said the real test would be whether the parties voted in favour of different options, other than punitive measures, to reduce harm caused by illegal drug use. 

Rural Health Tasmania says that drug incarcerations have rose by 60 per cent between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

It says reported use of ice and detections by police had increased in recent years.