Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 2617 ..
MR HIRD: I have a serious question, Mr Speaker, for the Minister for Urban Services, Brendan Smyth. This is of some concern to me. Minister, are you aware of a media release put out by Labor member for Brindabella Mr John Hargreaves, MLA, that government had got its priorities wrong, as sharps were not being picked up on a regular basis by your staff, sir, in particular at City Hill? Mr Hargreaves stated that used syringes were picked up only if a complaint was received on the sharps hotline. Is this correct?
Mr Berry: Just say yes.
MR SMYTH: There is more to it than a simple yes. I thank the member for his question. Mr Hargreaves did put out a media release. I think all on this side of the house take the issue of drugs, particularly sharps, very seriously. When I saw Mr Hargreaves' press release, I asked the department to check out these claims. The staff's version of events is somewhat different to Mr Hargreaves'. Mr Hargreaves' comments were that we do not regularly clean up City Hill. He is wrong. It is not surprising that he would be wrong, given his history of getting the facts incorrect. For the record, particularly for Mr Hargreaves' benefit, City Hill is cleaned regularly. In fact, it is cleaned daily. On top of that, if the sharps hotline receives reports about syringes on the hill in between the daily cleans, we go out again and we pick up the sharps.
Mr Speaker, can I explain how Mr Hargreaves came to issue his press release. It says something interesting about just who got their priorities wrong on these issues. I am told that Mr Hargreaves called the sharps hotline on two occasions some weeks ago. Neither time did he identify himself as an MLA, although he was using his office phone during work time. The first time he called the hotline was several days after being told by somebody that there were syringes on City Hill. He did not give any details on how the syringes were found or where they were exactly. Mr Hargreaves called, wanting to know how often we cleaned the area. The staff told him that the sharps hotline did not actually sweep the area but went out every time there was a report of sharps which needed to be picked up. Mr Hargreaves was also informed that, as well as this, CityScape cleaners regularly cleaned the area and removed any syringes that they found. It is curious that Mr Hargreaves, despite having this information, still continued in the Chronicle to call for a regular clean-up of the area. Once again, Mr Speaker, the area is cleaned daily.
The other issue that worries me here is one raised after Mr Hargreaves' second call to the sharps hotline, about 45 minutes after his first. I am told that he made this call to report that he had found another five sharps for the sharps staff to go out and collect. Thank you for using our service. My staff tell me that he would not tell them the exact location of the sharps so that they could be removed quickly. It took the ranger a much longer search to find them and then to remove them than if Mr Hargreaves had cooperated. Mr Speaker, this lack of help by Mr Hargreaves is disappointing, as it not only wasted the time of the ranger but also ensured that it took extra time to find the sharps, which of course puts the public at greater risk.