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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4194 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

some of the extremely unfortunate young and not so young people who get tied up in the drug scene.

Mr Speaker, the thing that fascinates me about this debate tonight is that you could take out SIP and plug in needle exchange, heroin trial or any of the other more innovative approaches that we have ever looked at for drug treatment over the years. I remember quite a long time ago, and a long time before politics for me, being involved in a very similar debate with regard to needle exchange. I remember spending a lot of time out on the hustings, one could say, in pharmacies around Australia trying to convince pharmacists to be part of a needle exchange program, and exactly the same arguments were put - that it would encourage use, that it was the beginning of the end for young people and that it was a disaster.

What has happened as a result of the needle exchange program? What has happened is that we now have one of the most successful public health programs in the world; one that is seen worldwide, not just in Australia, as a very real success. I suppose it has saved countless millions of dollars and a huge number of lives. Those are not just top-of-the-head comments. If we remember back to when we first started to realise that the AIDs epidemic was happening in America, the projections for loss of life in Australia were scary. At that stage we were thinking that hundreds of thousands of people were likely to die, and they did not. Why didn't they? They did not because we moved in very quickly with needle exchange and it meant that the number of people who became HIV positive from multiple use of needles was cut dramatically and very quickly. It certainly meant that we still had to do a lot of work in the homosexual community with regard to safe sex, but it did mean that one significant method of spreading HIV had been significantly reduced. In other words, it worked. The statistics are there.

Mr Quinlan: Do you think Dave would have voted for it?

MS CARNELL: I do not know.

MR SPEAKER: I think he can speak for himself, Mr Quinlan, and interjections are out of order.

MS CARNELL: I think we need to respect each others views on this. I think Mr Stanhope made some very uncalled for comments about the fact that members on this side of the house will vote differently on this issue, as we have on these sorts of issues on almost every occasion since I have been in this place. The reason for that, Mr Speaker, as you well know, is that I know you feel very strongly about this issue. I know that you believe absolutely in the position you are taking, and you know that I believe, absolutely, definitely, in my heart of hearts, that I am taking the right approach. I would no more ask you to vote against your conscience than I know you would ask me. Similarly, that is the case right across the party. That is one of the reasons why I am a Liberal. We do respect each other's views on important matters like this. We would not require people to vote against their conscience, and that is certainly what will happen here tonight.

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