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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4170 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

had on other necessary and important measures. The heroin trial has tended to detract from a further, wider debate that is needed on other specific measures. Those measures are what Mr Stanhope mentioned earlier: Broad areas of education, the varieties of treatment, law enforcement, legal measures.

I would hope that after today we are able to see the same intensity of debate given to those further necessary measures. Heroin has relatively low use in the community, but it imposes a damage out of all proportion to its use. So it demands attention. There is so much to be done. We have to look to detox facilities. We have been doing that. We have to look at substitution programs - there is some of that - abstinence programs and support to keep people recovering from addiction from returning to it. We do too little of that. So many of those people slip back if the social support is not there or the social circumstances in which they live have not changed. We have to look to that. Most of all, we have to look to social circumstances, so that where we are successful in getting someone off an addiction we have a higher success rate in keeping them off it.

We have to be sure we have employment for people and support so that there is a meaning to their lives. Many who take up addiction have not found meaning to their lives. Many others have a clear meaning, yet still experiment. Mr Speaker, the strident debate we have had is to be expected because of the public view that all citizens have of the drug problem. That public view is on television every night. I expect it has to be there; it should be there. The public view is of crazed druggies engaging in hold-ups; street deals in the public; house-breaking; crime. That is the public view, and it is all true. There is no doubt about that. So, naturally, we get a very strong response from a community that cannot abide it.

But in this Assembly, we have a responsibility to look a little further - to look a good deal further. The problem is much broader than that. The people involved are much more than that. The crazed druggie the public might claim to see is actually a very small part of the heroin-using population. Heroin use is much broader than scenes you may see or the reports you may hear on television. Heroin use is widespread in the community. There is an extensive recreational use. There are people living in your street whom you do not know, nor would expect, taking heroin. We have to focus on that. There is the first-time user who can get caught out by an overdose. There are many controlled users, employed, with children and families who can still get caught out.

Many who lose control are perhaps slipping into more difficult times. That is the broad context. When we start talking a little more widely, we find how extensive the problem is; how ordinary are so many of the people involved in drug taking. It is our job as representatives to take extra steps to encompass the problem. I understand why debate is so strident. It impacts on us. It is what we see and hear about all the time. But, I say again, it is much more than that. These are all people. They have families and loved ones. Many lead productive lives. Many others could, or should, lead productive lives. Mr Speaker, I support a compassionate approach and will continue to do so. But I also support a realistic approach that gets down to solutions we hope will do something. I believe the supervised injecting room is both compassionate and realistic.

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