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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 2797 ..

Needle Exchange Program

MR OSBORNE: Mr Speaker, I am interested in why Mr Kaine's name is not on this brochure, given that he has not made up his mind yet either. Perhaps it is another mistake on your part, Mr Berry. I doubt it, though.

Mr Berry: What?

MR OSBORNE: Mr Kaine's name is not in the brochure - in version three, perhaps.

MR SPEAKER: Order! Do you have a question, Mr Osborne?

MR OSBORNE: It is a very nice photo of Mr Berry, too. Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health, Mr Moore. I always get nervous asking Mr Moore questions on this matter, but it is a serious question. I am sure that he will waffle on about his pet subject, but it is an important question.

Mr Moore: I will be as concise as I can.

MR OSBORNE: As concise as you can; that would be right. Over the past couple of weeks you have made several public statements about the Territory's needle exchange program - take that smile off your face, Mr Moore - and its relationship to the Government's harm minimisation approach to intravenous drug use. On Monday of this week one media report stated that there were 100,000 needles handed out in 1991-92, rising up to half a million for 1997-98. Could you inform the Assembly how many of those half a million needles were actually handed back and exchanged? That is a serious question.

MR MOORE: Thank you for the question, Mr Osborne. Of course, I will be consistent with the standing orders, which require that I be concise and confined to the subject matter of the question. Mr Osborne, Assisting Drug Dependents runs 20 needle and syringe exchange program outlets across the ACT. Needle and syringe distribution through those outlets for 1997-98 did exceed half a million, and approximately two-thirds, 66 per cent, of this number were returned to the distribution outlets. We know from the figures that Mr Smyth presented in the Assembly last week that city rangers pick up about 5,300 and CityScape about 2,100 needles. That is a reduction, by the way, in the number that were picked up in previous times.

We calculated last week that that was about 1.5 per cent. About 1.5 per cent of the needles seem to be discarded. We would presume that the other approximately 30 per cent of needles go into landfill. What it indicates to me is that we do have a problem with about 1.5 per cent of the needles that are distributed. In other words, it says that more than 98 per cent of needles that are being used are being responsibly disposed of. I think that it is an incredible credit, considering the very difficult issue we are dealing with.

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