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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1106 ..

Ministerial Statement and Paper

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care): Mr Speaker, I ask for leave of the Assembly to make a ministerial statement on harm minimisation, the preferred health model.

Leave granted.

MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, today this country faces crucial questions on many issues. The health of the people of Australia and, for us, the people of Canberra is among the most important of these questions - not health as some amorphous, theoretical issue to be debated by academics or researchers or committees, but health as it applies to people, to Australians, to Canberrans. I came to this ministry a short time ago with a strong view that the citizen is the central figure in the health map. Nothing I have seen or heard has moved me any other way; nor would I expect it to. So today I have three issues I want to explore, each in its own way focusing on health issues affecting our citizens. Through these three issues runs a common thread, and the common thread is harm minimisation.

None of us would dispute that a problem exists in the area of, for instance, drugs. Most societies have subscribed to mind-altering substances of some variety. For us, more recently it has been tobacco, alcohol and cannabis and other drugs of dependence. Each of these has its own dark area of risk for both the individual and society. I doubt whether I would get an argument from many quarters on the proposal that it is society's role to control those risk areas. But consider two approaches - proscriptive legislation and harm minimisation. If the world has learnt anything through the history of legislation, it should be that proscription has not worked. Prohibition in America is a prime example of a disastrous attempt by government to do its job in a draconian way. Compare that with the work in Australia on the control of tobacco, where in recent times harm minimisation has been the key. I would claim that this country's success in controlling tobacco use and abuse is envied by others around the globe. It is appropriate to give credit, from the ACT point of view, to the work that Wayne Berry in particular has done on that issue. With that thought, though, I want to move on to the three matters in focus today.

The first one is the sexual health and blood-borne diseases strategic plan 1998-2000. A copy of the plan is attached to the ministerial statement that is being distributed to members. A major commitment which brings into play the harm minimisation concept is the ACT's strategic plan on sexual health and blood-borne diseases. This plan is the first in Australia to integrate a strategic approach to the management of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, or HCV. Mr Speaker, while the plan is therefore of considerable importance as a stand-alone document, it would be a mistake to view its impact in isolation.

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