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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3009 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

and disgraceful that you would do this; that you would use a difficult social policy issue to divert attention from your own problems, and that you are prepared to target a disadvantaged group within the community, a group of people suffering a serious health issue and problem, and that you will say to the community, "Vent your spleen on this lot."

Mr Speaker, governments are elected to govern. That means that parties that aspire to government have to take detailed and clearly articulated policies to the electorate to allow proper choices to be made by voters. This government cannot do that on the drugs issue because the split in its ranks means it cannot have a clearly articulated and progressive policy. It cannot show the leadership to confront possibly the most difficult social issue for our community, and in its desperation it seeks to muddy the waters with a populist and flawed proposal to seek the community view at a referendum. That is not a credible or creditable way to run a government.

MR SPEAKER: The member's time has expired.

MR STANHOPE: Sadly, we have become used to that in the years of waste and mismanagement that we have seen from this government.

MR KAINE (11.11): Mr Speaker, I think it is clear that drug abuse and addiction presents one of the major problems of our time. Even in the ACT, thousands of people, their families and friends, and the victims of drug-related crime, suffer directly or indirectly. All are victims of the scourge of drugs.

They suffer endlessly and, in their despair, look to government to relieve them of that suffering. They reasonably expect that government will initiate positive action to minimise the impact of the drug trade on their lives, to put programs in place to heal the afflicted by curing them of their addiction, to treat their problems, and to rehabilitate those addicted and allow them to regain their normal lives. These are reasonable expectations, and government has an obligation to act in connection with them.

I submit, Mr Speaker, that for too long now we have seen government equivocate in taking positive action on these matters. Some token programs have been set in place, like the methadone program, which now, after all this time, seems to be no solution at all. Great reliance has been placed on punitive police measures to control the drug trade. There has been some procrastination. Over the objections of many of us, the government had the go ahead on a shooting gallery not so long ago, but they went to water and failed to act on that approval for the basest of reasons-political expediency. That matter is still on the books, but no action has been taken in connection with it.

Some proposals for action have been arbitrarily rejected. For example, I proposed some time ago that we adopt a prescribed heroin program, with addicts being offered government-provided heroin, through prescription administered by general practitioners, under the public health program, that is, Medicare. That proposal was simply ignored, although I notice that the AMA President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, is right now advocating something similar. So I suppose that at some future time that program might well be picked up.

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