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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4225 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

with the committee. The Minister must consult with the committee about the operation of the facility. He must consult with the committee about the conditions of access to the facility, and the advisory committee must make recommendations on the rules relating to access.

That goes to the next question. The committee must consider, come to some agreement and advise the Minister, who will no doubt take advice from his department, on the terms and conditions on which persons under 18 may attend the facility. This has been raised today. I specifically included that provision in this amendment as a signal that there are difficult and complex issues associated with drug use and drug abuse, and we cannot run away from them. There is no sense in sticking our heads in the sand. There is no sense in any of us pretending that we do not have walking our streets significant numbers of children, people under the age of 18 years, injecting heroin. I am not afraid to debate the issue. I am not afraid to stand here and say that this is a difficult and complex issue.

My personal thoughts are that drug addicts under the age of 18 must have access to the safest possible facility whilst they are engaging in this life-threatening activity. But there certainly must be a range of conditions around how that access is to be conducted and controlled. There is a range of very difficult and complex issues about which this community has to make decisions and for which the Minister, Michael Moore, ultimately has to accept responsibility.

I think this is a most appropriate way of dealing with this very difficult and complex issue. A broadly based community advisory committee comprising 16 respected members of this community, across the whole spectrum, will advise the Minister for Health on how to deal with this complex issue. I hope and trust the Minister will refer that advice to his department. The Department of Health can then advise him on whether or not those proposals should be accepted.

This is a difficult issue. I do not know of a better way in which we as a community can deal with that incredibly hard and complex decision. If somebody can tell me a better way of dealing with the fact that we have on our streets legions of children under the age of 18 injecting heroin and risking their lives, other than by providing a safe environment in which they can inject - they are going to inject anyway, because they are addicted to heroin - I would like to hear it. If somebody can persuade me that there is a better way, perhaps we can amend this proposal in some other way. I do not know of any other way. I think this is a sensible proposal. I have racked my brain but I cannot think of a better way of dealing with this most difficult, complex and awful issue.

Another vital requirement of the advisory committee is that they must advise the Minister, and the Minister must take note, of the criteria by which the effectiveness of the facility will be evaluated. This is something people have been very concerned about and very cynical about. I can understand their concern. I do not ignore the concern. I accept it. They own it. I see it; I hear it. I hear it in the insults that have been hurled at me in this debate and on public radio. I hear it constantly. I know of the level of concern. But we are not going to duck and weave. This provision is designed to allay some of that concern.

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