Xenophon wants ice 'scourge' tackled

SA Best leader Nick Xenophon wants to halve ice use by 2020 and force users into rehab. (AAP)

SA-BEST leader Nick Xenophon has called on the next state government to tackle the growing ice epidemic with plans for mandatory rehabilitation for users.

Ice users in South Australia should be forced into rehabilitation with Nick Xenophon calling for the "scourge" to be a key priority of the next state government.

The SA-BEST leader also wants to halve ice use by 2020, in a policy released ahead of the March state election.

If his party wins the balance of power, Mr Xenophon says he'll push for legislation establishing mandatory rehab and detox facilities for ice users within the first three months.

The former senator said police were shocked at the extent of ice use in the regional centre of Murray Bridge, east of Adelaide, during a recent murder investigation.

"The fact that a senior respected police officer was shocked by what was found is a wakeup call for all of us," Mr Xenophon said on Tuesday.

Health Minister Peter Malinauskas said the government was "open-minded" to the idea of a mandatory rehabilitation service, and intended to consult broadly on its merits.

"It is something that we think should be an option of last resort," he told reporters.

Also on the campaign trail on Tuesday Labor pledged an extra $70 million for mental health services if returned on March 17, including $17.2 million for drug and alcohol outreach programs.

"We know that by acting early on the signs and symptoms of poor mental health, we can prevent people and families from reaching crisis point," Premier Jay Weatherill said.

Mr Xenophon and Mr Weatherill joined Opposition Leader Steven Marshall at a leaders' debate on social issues, where the premier said the social services sector would bear the brunt of tax cuts promised during the South Australian election campaign.

He referred to a commitment by Mr Marshall to scrap payroll tax for some businesses and Mr Xenophon's promise to reduce the state's land tax.

"We're going to see cuts and it's going to fall on the social services," Mr Weatherill said.

The premier said Mr Marshall's promised state-based productivity commission and Mr Xenophon's proposed royal commission into the state's health system would also jeopardise funding to the welfare sector.

But Mr Xenophon and Mr Marshall found common ground refuting the comments, both leaders accusing the premier of running a scare campaign.

Mr Xenophon defended his health investigation which he said would focus on how to better harness the power of the public and not-for-government sector to better deliver services.

Mr Marshall said the premier could rethink Labor's advertising campaigns and proposed tram lines to direct funds into programs that supported disadvantaged South Australians.

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