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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 2820 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I noticed that Mr Osborne was asking questions today about the needle exchange program. If for no other reason, the needle exchange program can be justified just in terms of hepatitis C, let alone any other blood-borne disease. As the Minister has conceded in this place, I think during estimates at least, there is no reason for us to be sanguine about the potential for other blood-borne diseases to be lurking there, blood-borne diseases of which we are not yet aware.

An issue that is also raised by the Minister in his paper in relation to blood-borne diseases and sexual health is particular to the indigenous population of the ACT. I understand that in a whole range of indicia, HIV infections, hep C infections and heroin abuse, the indigenous population of the ACT is a population in relation to which these issues have become a much more pressing problem and in relation to which there is an exponential explosion of infection and use.

The Minister, in the paper, does touch on some other very important and significant issues which, in the context of the debate which is with us, will intensify within this community in relation to some of the harm minimisation proposals, such as a safe injecting place. There is a range of other issues that need to be considered and debated in that context, issues which I think the community must become familiar with and accepting of, such as the potential repeal of the offence of self-administration of a prohibited substance. Issues such as that will have to be dealt with and articulated by the Minister when he seeks to engage the community in relation to the establishment of a safe injecting place. People will be concerned about issues of legality and responsibility, and that goes for issues such as the offence of self-administration.

I think the stage will probably arise when the Minister progresses his proposals in relation to some of the issues around harm minimisation. We will have to debate the problems which are presented by an abstinence-based approach to illicit drugs and the fact that the Prime Minister seems intent on maintaining an ideological position in relation to that. There is an issue here for us in the ACT which I will touch on, and one which I will continue to bring up. It seems to me that the ACT has missed out sorely in relation to the Prime Minister's so-called tough on drugs funding.

There is an aspect of the paper which the Minister, if he is joining in the debate today, might respond to. I refer to page 8 of his report. This might be something that I have missed in the debate. Mr Moore advises us that the Commonwealth announced that the ACT has been allocated $125,000 over four years to meet gaps in service delivery. He then listed the priorities - the need for a residential rehabilitation service for young people, a women's detoxification service, a residential rehabilitation service for Aboriginal people, and services for people with mental illnesses. (Extension of time granted) The paper notes that the Commonwealth has indicated that the ACT Government's funding will be $125,000, or $500,000 in total. The Minister, in his paper, notes that that amount of money would barely cover operational costs, let alone establishment costs. I understand and agree with the point.

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