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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1151 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

profile drug that receives most of the media attention. There are many other drugs, both illicit and legal, which are abused by people in the community, so this strategy has to take into account, at the end of the day, the abuse of those particular substances.

In recent times there has been a smattering of attention given to law enforcement from the community. There are many in the community who believe that there should be a harder line taken on drugs. Many in the community support a strategy which could be aptly described as a war on drugs. Indeed, I think what they really mean is a war on drug users and drug peddlers, but I think that falls short of the mark if you want to deal with this issue in a socially responsible way.

We have heard the debates about a heroin trial. We are now in the centre of a debate about a drug injecting room for heroin users. All of these issues will play a role in the development of our approach to drugs in the future. None of them is a silver bullet. Indeed, in my view - this is my view alone - heroin should be available as part of programs so that people can get their lives back together, but I also feel that abstinence still has to remain part of a strategy otherwise it will not be manageable, principally because the community will not accept maintenance as the basis of any drug strategy. The community will not accept that.

I say that with the fact in the back of my mind that for years governments here and in other places have embarked on maintenance strategies with methadone. Methadone is not a pretty drug either. I think with more information about the use of heroin we can get a little bit closer to a solution which the community will accept. When I came here in 1989 and methadone was described to me, I remember asking why on earth can we not just use heroin instead, or as part of the program. It pretty soon became clear to me that that was not possible then. I remember in earlier years - I think it was 1991 or thereabouts - raising this issue at a ministerial drug council and watching the blood drain from the faces of some of my ministerial colleagues across the table. Nevertheless, this debate has gone on for some years, and it will go on for some years hence, undoubtedly. Part of the pace of change has to be driven by a sensible approach which is not wildly out of step with community attitudes.

I have to say that I have been critical in the past of the way the drug issue has been discussed here in the ACT, and I continue to be reserved about the way that the Government is handling the issue. In fact, there has been insufficient public effort, and effort in practice, in my view, in the area of education. That was highlighted just a little while ago when we discovered how little is spent on education in relation to this matter. Other colleagues will have a lot more to say about this matter. I am sure that they will go to many other details which will create an interesting debate about this issue. It is a key issue for the development of society and our social structures, and I personally welcome the debate.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (12.09): Mr Speaker, I and the Labor Party welcome the release of the draft ACT drug strategy 1999. The ACT draft drug strategy seeks to link a host of ACT-related strategies, including those in the areas of youth, police, health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plans and education policies. The strategy also outlines the need to maintain continued links with community

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