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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 3232 ..

MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with order of the day No 2, Executive business, relating to the paper on the National Approach to Illicit Drug Use? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 1 they may also address their remarks to order of the day No. 2, Executive business, relating to the paper on the National Approach to Illicit Drug Use.

MR HIRD (10.40): Mr Speaker, the ACT Drug Strategy 1999, entitled From Harm to Hope, signifies the first real attempt to look at the drug picture in the ACT in its entirety. It is a credit to the Chief Minister for the way in which she has nurtured this proposal and brought it to this chamber as it covers a full spectrum which I will detail further. Mr Speaker, the strategy looks at where we are now and how we got here, and sets goals as to where we should go from here.

Importantly, the document recognises that there is a real problem and does not attempt to hide it under the carpet. It develops plans and strategies as to how we can deal with this very serious problem. We have a duty as legislators to recognise the problem as outlined in the strategy and to seek the answers. The Chief Minister is to be congratulated for bringing together diverse groups, both within the government sector and from outside it, to participate in the development of this strategy document.

As I stated, Mr Speaker, this document provides the first real look at all of the issues, and it successfully attempts to identify the various target groups that need specific programs developed for them. The strategy has been developed to be consistent with the national drug strategic framework and this will ensure that, whilst we may be able to lead the way, our approach will be recognised in other jurisdictions.

Another important issue is the complementary nature of the strategy. It has been designed to work with many strategies, plans and items of legislation already on the statute books. It will not operate in isolation, but will require the goodwill and cooperation of many community and government organisations and individuals to work. It has been developed with their input and will operate similarly, I trust. I am a great believer, Mr Speaker, in the importance of education as a major strategy in the community's response to the drug issue. I am glad to see that the document also places great store in this aspect of the response to drug use and abuse.

Mr Speaker, members will be aware of my interest in this issue and I have read From Harm to Hope with great care and interest. However, whilst I congratulate the Chief Minister and all who have worked on this document, I cannot support its thrust entirely. I remain absolutely opposed to the proposition of establishing safe injecting rooms and the proposal for a heroin trial. Mr Speaker, how can you have a safe injecting room? Maybe you could have a less dangerous injecting room, but not a safe one. Surely the use of heroin in the general community is dangerous no matter where it is injected, and there are too many unknowns. Where does the heroin come from? What are the implications for the police and the legal system? Who can access the rooms? How are they vetted? More importantly, what sort of signal does this send when we are trying to educate people, in particular young people, about the dangers of drug use?

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