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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4195 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

The issues surrounding the supervised injecting place are very interesting, Mr Speaker. I think it is important for me to mention one point that nobody else has raised tonight. I do not want to speak on things that have already been spoken about. I think what a number of people in this place do not realise is why a supervised injecting place potentially will work. People have commented that the substance that people put into their arms will still be of unknown strength and unknown quality. That is true, but narcotic overdose is very easy to treat. You can treat it very quickly. One dose of Narcan, an injection, will immediately reverse the effects of the narcotic. Toxic effects related to other substances that may be mixed with the heroin are very rarely fatal. In fact, I have never heard of them being fatal. They can certainly cause veins to collapse and all sorts of other things, but it is the narcotic that causes the death because heroin and other narcotics that are being injected cause respiratory depression, particularly when used with alcohol and other drugs, and people simply die. The fact is that we can save them if we are there on the spot to do it. Quite regularly people wake up not being very happy about the whole situation because they tend to be in narcotic withdrawal, but for all of that we have saved their lives. So it does not matter to a large extent what is in that heroin, or how strong it is or how weak it is. If we have somebody on the spot, in 99 per cent of cases they will not die - in fact, probably in 100 per cent of cases.

The other thing about a supervised injecting place is that we will have an opportunity to get to people who may not be ready or willing to access our methadone programs or our other programs, but they still do not want to die, Mr Speaker. Now, it is hard to believe. You would think that somebody who is putting a needle into their arms a couple of times a day not knowing what is in it must want to die, but they do not, Mr Speaker. They want to live. That is why they will use the SIP. When they use the SIP we will be able to start making sure that information is available to them with regard to services, support, counselling and other ways in which we may get them into methadone treatment or other forms of treatment when they are ready. So we will be able to save their lives, stop the heroin killing them. We will be able to access them and hopefully move them into programs, and by doing that we will be able to save some lives. I believe it will be a success.

You just have to have a look at what has happened overseas. I accept that they were not very scientific trials. Consider the situation in Frankfurt in Germany, a city that has had safe injecting places for nearly 10 years now. In 1991, 147 people overdosed and died in Frankfurt. In 1997 that number was down to 22. In 1992 the ambulance services were dealing with 15 drug-related emergencies every day. They now deal with two a week. In 1992, 70 to 80 per cent of heroin addicts had HIV. That is down to 18 per cent now. The number of people who are homeless in Frankfurt has reduced, and there has been a decrease in crime over the last decade. Break-ins into cars and so on are down by 30 per cent and robberies are down by 20 per cent. This is at a time when in Australia robberies are up and car break-ins are up. We are going in exactly the opposite direction. In a Western world city, where the standard of living and standard of education is not dissimilar to what you see here, and where they have tried it - I fully accept that it was not a very scientific trial - the statistics look very good. On that basis I believe we have to give it a go.

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