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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4208 ..

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.10), in reply: Mr Speaker, it is important to put this debate into context. Those who rose in opposition to this legislation talked about the problems that will be created. The problems were created when heroin was prohibited in the mid-1950s and have increased exponentially since. Unfortunately, we are past the stage where we can just wind the clock back to where we were. Too much water has passed under the bridge. We need to work step by step towards making sure that we have a more compassionate process.

I was singularly impressed this evening when Mr Stefaniak said he recognised the sincerity of everybody's position. Recognition of each other's point of view by the vast majority of members here has enhanced the calibre of this debate.

I would like to make a number of points. The first and most important is that it is a scientific trial. Mr Kaine, Mr Rugendyke and others questioned whether it was a scientific trial. Science is more than just physics and chemistry. Epidemiology is a science. It is a science-medical discipline. This will be conducted as a scientific trial.

There was a disappointment for me in Mr Stanhope's speech when he suggested that Labor had done extensive consultation - and I do not disagree with that - but implied that the Government had done none, or very minimal consultation. We have done extensive consultation for 18 months. Mr Smyth read from a list of groups we have consulted. I had just been made Minister when the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Diseases Advisory Committee first put to me the recommendation, which I tabled in the Assembly, that we establish a supervised injecting room. We have been proceeding with that.

The disappointment for me is that it has taken so long to do it. I feel that with the original piece of legislation I tabled it would have been possible to do the task, and to do it well. Contrary to what Mr Kaine suggested, the legislation before us is adequate to do the job. Mr Stanhope and the Labor Party have amendments, which are quite acceptable to me, to ensure that administrative actions are taken properly in accordance with their wishes. I understand why they are doing that. But it was always possible to carry out these things appropriately by administrative action, other than for the bits of the legislation that are there to protect the community, protect the workers and ensure that the operation has the support of the Government, in particular the support of the Assembly. It is very important to understand - and Mr Kaine does know, of course - that we do not do everything by legislation. We do a great deal by administrative action, as he did on many issues when he was a Minister.

A number of members raised how we are going to handle young people. That is a major difficulty, but I think members ought to be aware that we are talking about young people who are already using. The question is not whether they will be using. We all wish that was the question. The question is whether they will be using in public toilets and alleys or whether they will be using in a supervised injecting place where there will be people not only to help them but to offer them a gateway to other treatment, to rehabilitation, to methadone, and so on.

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