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Although illicit drugs remain illegal, the prospect of prison sentences for addicts and recreational users has been replaced by other sanctions and drug treatment options.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 have 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."
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.
- MATT MALONEY AND LUCY STONE