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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1953..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I have had discussions with Environment ACT about their capacity to progressively, from within existing programs and resources, undertake just the survey you have suggested. I think what you suggest is very important, that we do do that survey, that we come to a much better understanding of groundwater issues in the ACT.

I make the commitment to you that it is a real priority. At this stage I'm not sure what resources are available within Environment ACT to undertake a full-scale groundwater or resource water survey as of this year or within this financial year, but I acknowledge the point you raise. It is an important issue. The survey that you ask me to commit to, I think, is vitally important, something we need to do and something certainly the government is committed to doing over time.

Drug strategy

MS MacDONALD: My question is to the Minister for Health. In light of comments made in the Canberra Times this week by the opposition's spokesperson on health and following on from his question today, can you advise the Assembly of the status of the Stanhope government's extensive drug and alcohol program?

MR CORBELL: In my response to Mr Smyth's question, I outlined to members the steps the government is already taking to improve access to subsidised places in the buprenorphine and methadone program; so I will not reiterate those points. The government has a range of other measures in place to improve access to drug and alcohol programs. Also, our most recent budget includes significant improvements in the range of measures to address issues associated with drug and alcohol use.

I am pleased to advise members that vending machines for needles and syringes will be established outside health centres in Belconnen, Civic, Woden and Tuggeranong this year as part of a 12-month trial. One of the issues that the government is having to address to ensure that this facility is available is an amendment to the Drugs of Dependence Act to clarify the circumstances in which needles and syringes can be made available through a vending machine and not involve a human being actually issuing them. Work is under way to ensure that we have the legislation needed to permit that trial to proceed.

Meanwhile, there is already a strong needle and syringe program in place. Members will be familiar with the fact that needles and syringes are provided free of charge during the day from many of our community health centres and are able to be purchased for $2 from 28 of the local pharmacies.

There is also the issue of progressing a range of other measures. For example, I have raised in this place and in national forums earlier the establishment of a hydromorphone trial in the ACT. Work is continuing on the development of the parameters for such a trial in the ACT and assessing its viability if we can go it alone. In addition, the government continues to fund a range of other measures.

I am pleased to say that this year's budget has allocated $562,000 over four years to a school education alcohol and drug program. That is a very significant investment in

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