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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 1995 ..

MR DE DOMENICO: Mr Speaker, I thank the member for what is today, obviously, a particularly topical point and a topical question. Before I answer the member's question, I would like to make an unusual request. The unusual request, Mr Speaker, is that Mr Whitecross, in particular, actually listen to the answer. He may learn something.

MR SPEAKER: Order! There are many standing orders, but I think that is beyond them.

MR DE DOMENICO: Mr Speaker, since 1988 the Government has operated a 24-hour sharps collection service for the collection and safe removal of hypodermic syringes left in public places. The system operates by way of a telephone hotline by which trained officers can be contacted to come and collect and remove dangerous objects such as used needles.

Mr Berry: They can train you to do your own, apparently.

MR DE DOMENICO: You sit down and listen, too, because you might learn something as well; and you can pass it on to him, if you talk to one another.

In the last 12 months officers of the sharps squad have collected 8,544 sharps in Canberra. It is a very concerning problem. Mr Speaker, it is clearly a sad indictment on the society we live in that drug use is so prevalent. However, this figure also demonstrates the valuable job that these few public servants do for the local community. Mr Speaker, the damage that these potentially deadly instruments could be inflicting, if it were not for the Sharps Unit initiative, does not bear thinking about.

As well as providing a collection service, Mr Speaker, the Sharps Unit assists organisations by giving them information on training in safe collection procedures so that these organisations can themselves ensure that their property is safe from syringes. Many organisations in Canberra and outside the ACT have been trained by the sharps service staff - notably, the ANU grounds staff, ACTION, schools, the Smith Family, the recyclers, BFI, contract cleaning companies, several licensed clubs, and the list goes on and on. The Government also provides medical users of sharps with information on safe disposal and drop-off centres for containers of sharps; and, as a more recent initiative, many public toilets have been fitted with proper disposal chutes. If people go and have a look at the loos at Tuggeranong Park, Manuka and other places, they will see the benefits of that.

Mr Speaker, I am sure that all members - perhaps not all members, but at least those members who think before they shoot from the hip - would agree that the job done by the sharps collection service is a valuable one for the community. It is most certainly a difficult and, I am sure, at times dangerous job, but one that is done well. The people who carry out this community service are perhaps not those who expect to be singled out for praise. However, I am sure that they did not expect to be singled out in the way they were by Mr Whitecross this morning. Mr Whitecross heard some scuttlebutt,

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