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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 1952 ..

Sharps Unit - Collection of Hypodermic Syringes

MR WHITECROSS (Leader of the Opposition) (5.32): Maybe we should review the standing order. I am not sure that it is working terribly well.

MR SPEAKER: That certainly is a point. We rarely come across this problem.

MR WHITECROSS: This is true. I just wanted to raise this evening in the adjournment debate a matter which is of concern to me and ought to be of concern to a lot of people because it is symptomatic of the kind of way that this city is being run at the moment. I am advised that this morning the management of the Civic Youth Centre telephoned the Sharps Unit of the Department of Urban Services - and I am sorry that Mr De Domenico is not here to hear this - which has responsibility for frequently collecting contaminated hypodermic syringes and needles in the city. The centre asked the Sharps Unit to pick up three hypodermic syringes which had been found. It is a service which has been provided by the unit for years. I am sure that members will agree that it is an important service. Apart from the danger of people accidentally pricking themselves, which can literally have fatal consequences, there is the temptation for children who find them to play with them; and for addicts to reuse them, which, itself, is quite dangerous.

To the great concern of the staff of the youth centre, they were told that the Sharps Unit would no longer collect any syringes found at the centre. When they pressed for an explanation, what they were told was that because the youth centre rents its premises from the Government it is technically not a public place and therefore its sharps will not be collected.

There are no prizes for working out why the Sharps Unit has to make savings. It does so in the most shoddy and disgraceful way. It knowingly permits a highly dangerous - indeed, it is not hyperbole to describe it as a deadly situation - where sharps must either be picked up by people with no expertise and training in handling them and no means of having them disposed of or, alternatively, left lying on the ground. It also calls into question the nature of the Government's customer service obligations if we have a situation where there is no alternative being offered to the Civic Youth Centre to address what I would have thought was an urgent and important public health matter.

I hope that the Minister will have this matter drawn to his attention and will do something about it, because, in my opinion, this is quite serious and, as I said at the beginning, symptomatic of the way that this city is being run down at the moment, with penny-pinching savings which compromise the welfare of the city at a time when, today, we have been hearing about a $5,000 strategy weekend at which apparently you had a lot of ideas, all of which have been disowned by the Government. It is a concern that the Government sees it as necessary to make savings in this way.

Assembly adjourned at 5.35 pm

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