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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4192 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

much use for this facility; but there will be some who will use this facility because they believe it to be a valuable place for them to inject safely.

Mr Speaker, it has been said from the other side of this place, I think by Mr Smyth, that if the supervised injecting place saves only one life it is a positive step. I agree wholeheartedly with that comment. I agree with that comment because that sort of presentation of the issue puts it in its context. It says, "This is not the be-all and end-all. This is not it as far as the debate goes". Once we have made the decision it is not all over. We cannot walk away and feel assured that we have fixed the problem because that will not be the case. This will be an issue that we as a society must continue to tackle. This is not a debate or an issue that will go away easily, but providing another option which is as safe as it can be, an option which is compassionate and which demonstrates that we do care as a society, is something that should be pursued.

Mr Speaker, the Labor Opposition has worked constructively in this debate. I want to commend my leader, Mr Stanhope, for the real leadership he has shown on this issue. I do so not in any partisan way. I say this because it is refreshing to see a leader of any major political party prepared to come out and say, "We know that this issue is difficult. We know that this issue presents problems and we know that it polarises many people in our community, but we are going to support this Bill because we believe it is the right thing to do". That is a refreshing approach. It is a refreshing approach for me to see coming from my party. I have given Mr Stanhope my full support for the approach he has taken.

Mr Speaker, another comment I would like to make relates to the us and them philosophy we have heard expounded in the chamber tonight. In many respects I think it is the philosophy similar to that in 18th century England, where people were gaoled, indeed transported, for the most minimal of offences, not against people but against property, when they themselves were caught up in a broader social question of poverty and unemployment and an inability to participate fully in society. In 18th century England those people were punished by society, labelled as criminals and given draconian punishments.

In modern day Australia there are those who would argue that we should take a similar, uncompromising line with those who are caught up in a social malaise. That is, to my mind, Mr Speaker, a simplistic, uncaring and uncompassionate view, and we should not attempt to emulate it. We should not be prepared to agree that it is the way to proceed. Mr Speaker, instead of using the word "selfish", I would like to use the word "compassionate". Instead of "plague", I would suggest we use the word "illness" or "addiction". Instead of the word "criminal", I would suggest that we need to use a word such as "victim".

Mr Speaker, people are caught up in this most dreadful of malaises in our community and we will not progress the issue by simply saying, "It's us and them", "It's black and white", and "It's a case of just saying no". Tonight we have the opportunity to demonstrate an approach which is caring, compassionate, sensible and worth while. I urge members to take such a positive step.

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