Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1212 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
This year Mr Moore has been arguing for a drug injecting room because of the serious health risks arising from the unsanitary disposal of equipment in public areas. Unfortunately, Minister, you cannot have it both ways. The 150,000 missing needles are either in the landfill, as you said, or have been left lying around in the city.
Mr Speaker, let there be no mistake: The logical end of the so-called harm minimisation approach is the blanket legalisation of the sale, possession and use of illicit drugs. If members doubt that they need look no further than the jurisdiction Mr Moore is imitating with this proposal for shooting galleries. Despite having the most liberal drug laws in the world, Switzerland just had a referendum, pushed on them by the proponents of harm minimisation, which would, if passed, have seen the legalisation of drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Seventy-four per cent of the Swiss population thought that was a perfectly idiotic idea and rejected it.
Mr Speaker, what we are searching for as politicians is the best, imperfect, answer to the problem of drugs. It strikes me that none of Mr Moore's supposed answers have ever been put to the test. Even if a fraction of those 150,000 missing needles are on our streets, the Minister's harm minimisation approach is actually maximising the hurt to the rest of the community.
Mr Speaker, of course I care about the more than 3,000 Australians who have died from an overdose over the last 10 years, but I care more about the health of the wider community, as the Health Minister should, and I will not support programs that may, and I emphasise "may", assist a small minority while greatly increasing the harm done to the rest of the community. I believe in the age-old principle of the common good, Mr Speaker - finding the greatest good for the greatest number. In the absence of perfect answers, I can find no better guiding principle. I do not believe we minimise harm to people by pandering to their weaknesses. I do not see it as a kindness to stand idly by and watch a fellow human being fill their veins with a life-destroying drug.
There are several contentious proposals put forward in this drug strategy and I wish to hear, and not from the Health Minister, whether or not each of these proposals is collectively owned by government members. The specific proposals I am referring to are the provision of syringe vending machines at various points around the city, giving out syringes and needles to prisoners in the new ACT prison, and the establishment of a shooting gallery in Civic. I especially look forward to hearing from you, Mr Speaker, as a member of the Government, on these matters. I can assure the Health Minister that the availability and provision of health services to the inmates of ACT prisons will in due course be a matter of great interest to the Justice and Community Safety Committee.
Mr Speaker, change is not always real reform. Too often I believe that Mr Moore, and Mrs Carnell before him, have taken hold of the latest theory put forward by some of their drug law reform mates outside, and also in the department, in search of a quick headline. In doing so, they have offered no real solutions, while placing the wider public at risk. I for one have little time for taxpayer-funded programs such as teenagers who take injecting drugs teaching other teenagers how to take those same drugs.