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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (5 August) . . Page.. 3584..

Drugs of Dependence (Syringe Vending Machines) Amendment Bill 2004

Debate resumed from 24 June 2004, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (8.49): I have spoken to Labor Party members about tabling a speech on behalf of Ms Tucker, who is absent from the Assembly. I did not have time to ask members on the crossbench. Ms Tucker asked me to seek leave to table her speech and then ask for leave to incorporate the speech in Hansard so that the Greens' position on the Drugs of Dependence (Syringe Vending Machine) Amendment Bill is included in the official record.

Leave granted.

MR SMYTH: I table the speech. I seek leave to incorporate that speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The incorporated document appears at attachment 1 on page 3594.

MR SMYTH: On behalf of Ms Tucker, I thank all members for their cooperation. That is an indication of the way in which we work together at times. I will speak now in the debate on this bill on my behalf and on behalf of the Liberal Party.

The Canberra Liberals have a proud history of providing innovative ideas that enable us to deal with the drug problem. We are strong supporters of the nationally agreed harm minimisation framework. We counterpoint that approach with a strong punitive attitude towards drug dealers and traffickers. We also realise the important role that needle exchange programs play in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

The syringe vending machine proposal is interesting. I note the report of the Standing Committee on Health that recommends the installation of such machines. The opposition has a number of serious concerns about this bill. The opposition's first concern relates to the imposition of a fee for a needle. While that might be necessary to discourage children from using the machines, it is in conflict with the principle of free access to syringes and injecting equipment, which is at the centre of the harm minimisation approach. If there is the addition of a fee for those who are using the machines, the machines will be subject to vandalism. I note with interest that years ago we removed the coin boxes on barbecues in some of our parks simply because they were consistently being vandalised. The opposition believes that the addition of a fee for the retrieval of syringes will lead to vandalism and that that, in turn, will result in the machines not being able to be used.

The opposition is also concerned that there will be an inappropriate use of and access to syringes by children. Members would be aware that, sadly, very young people are injecting drugs. We view with concern young drug users having access to needles in that way. Curious youngsters will have access to machines if they are located at health centres to the side rather than in the middle of thriving town centres. The proposed

location of machines at health centres provides us with a disincentive to vote for this bill.

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