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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4204 ..


Debate resumed.

MR BERRY (10.51): Mr Speaker, at the root of the need for this legislation to pass through this Assembly is the basis of a humane society, a socially just society and a wealthy society. Wealthy societies which consider themselves to be socially just have an obligation to care for those people who are in strife in any form. We do that in most respects in Australian society. We are wealthy enough to look after those of us who are in deep trouble. The people addicted to these sorts of substances are, in many instances, in deep trouble. A primary obligation which falls on our shoulders is to ensure that we do our best, in the first place, to prevent them from becoming involved in these practices. We do, of course, protect the rest of the community, but we rehabilitate people who are injured.

We do so for all sorts of people with all sorts of injuries. We leave no stone unturned in rehabilitating to full and active participation in the community the drunken driver who smashes himself to pieces in a motor car. That is just one example. There are thousands more. There is no reason why we should not take that approach in relation to people who are using heroin. I have been a critic of the Carnell Government over the years because of the way that they have dealt with this issue. I still remain sceptical about their approach. My assessment of their performance in the past is that they have been more interested in the headline grabbing issues than they have been in a lot of the hard graft. I think that that position is starting to change. I think that much of it has come about because they know that they have to have a package of services available to deal with this social problem if they are going to gain the support of the Labor Party in this matter.

The Labor Party is a party which attracts people who are interested in social justice issues. I am happy to say that we have had quite an in-depth debate about this issue. At our last conference we endorsed a fairly comprehensive motion dealing with the issue of having a drug injecting room in the ACT. I should say at this point that I do not know of too many people who are terribly comfortable with the issue. Most people would wish the problem away. But most of us are intelligent enough to know that we just cannot wish it away; we have to address the issue. I do not like to hear people say that we cannot do anything. I know that that is completely untrue because there are lots of people out there doing lots of work in this field. What it boils down to is that we have just got to do more.

I do not believe and I do not think that many other people believe that having a drug injecting room is going to be the panacea, nor do I think that it is going to have a massive impact overall on the heroin problem. But it will deal with one aspect of the problem which is important. I know that strong emphasis has been put on the lives that will be saved as a result of the introduction of this drug injecting room, but I think expectations have been built up a little too highly in the community about what might come from it. In the end there will still be people who will inject heroin away from the drug injecting room and those people will still be subject to the current risks.

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