Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1213 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I will be following the progress of this draft strategy with great interest and I wish to put the Government on notice about that now. I intend, Mr Speaker, to scrutinise the Minister's health budget with the greatest of care, especially in relation to the safe injecting room.
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (5.36): Mr Speaker, I would like to respond to a series of issues that have been raised. Let me say first that this is a draft drug strategy, and officers of my department have been listening carefully to this debate. They will also go through the Hansard to take into account what members have said so that we can build that into our drug strategy where possible. There are some areas where we clearly have quite different perspectives. Those different perspectives will be resolved by a vote of the house. That is something that I think I will come back to when I discuss what Ms Tucker had to say.
Mr Berry started by talking about the history of heroin and how it was banned from Australia because it was overused. In fact, that was inaccurate. In 1953 the pressure was from the United States. There is a very good rendition of this in the book by Desmond Manderson, From Mr Sin to Mr Big. It explains that the British Medical Association, Australian Division, which is now the Australian Medical Association, strenuously objected to the loss of this very useful drug. That is a very minor point, in terms of Mr Berry's account, but I think one that is very pertinent. It was not because it was causing problems that it was banned; it was because of pressure from the United States. As I say, that is a very minor point.
I would like to say at the outset, Mr Speaker, that I am interested in ensuring that the drug strategy we have before us is a very broad approach. There is no doubt that in public circles and in the media - each of us knows the way the media works - the focus is on the controversial things. The controversial things have been the heroin trial and the safe injecting place, and I will come back to those.
The real issue for harm minimisation in this strategy is the killer drug, tobacco, and it is one that this Assembly has worked on, from its inception, pretty well as one. There have been a few tiffs around the edges. Mr Berry started with a very strong and tough stance on tobacco, a harm minimisation approach - not to ban it but to continue to make sure that we reduce harm. That is an approach that I am proud to continue. We also have a strong harm minimisation approach with regard to alcohol and to other drugs, and we will continue with that approach.
When I hear Ms Tucker say you really have to work very hard to get a common approach, I think there is a point at which you cut the line and say, "No, enough of a common approach. We can't do that. We are going to take a stance". Otherwise, all you can get is the lowest common denominator. I think that is the difficulty in the approach of Ms Tucker - that we can always bring everybody on board.
Mr Stanhope, in his speech, raised a series of very important points. Other speakers also raised an issue about scrutiny and evaluation. A decision was made in the first strategy that, within the budget that was available, we had to get on and deal with harm minimisation and not spend the money on evaluation and scrutiny. At this point, coming out of the evaluation is the notion that we do have to spend more money on that so that