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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3020 ..

MRS BURKE (11.52): We heard the Leader of the Opposition talking about a shameful exercise, a stunt, an abrogation of responsibility. This is an insult to the people's intelligence and their ability to be involved in this serious issue that affects the whole community.

This bill will provide the people of Canberra with a say on two very contentious issues that have been on the table for some time-namely, a supervised injecting place and a clinical heroin trial. I would suggest that, far from bringing this government into disrepute, as has also been said, it shows courage, leadership and choice. Far from using people, it engages people and empowers them in the process. People in Canberra do have a good understanding of the issues involved. It is disturbing to me that the ALP always seem to be crying for more time while in the meantime people are dying on our streets. We have a government that is showing courage.

There has been strong and vigorous debate about the merits of the proposal over a period of some years. It is very rude to insinuate that this government is somehow now using people for political gain. It is very distasteful. Over the past few months, debate has been renewed by the prospect of a referendum. A plethora of letters and feature articles have been published on this issue, and a number of surveys have been conducted to gauge community opinion. People, young and old alike, have been discussing the issues with me in community meetings, at shopping centres and in workplaces. People are ready to add to this debate and make their contribution.

Mr Speaker, there is genuine concern about this issue. Parents are worried about their children's future. Young people themselves worry about the drug culture that surrounds them. Where is the hope? Where is the future? The community worries about the impact of drug addiction on our crime rates.

I believe we are ready. We are ready and prepared as a government and as a community to take some action. We are a government that has the courage of our convictions. As has been said by the Chief Minister, we will accept the view of the electorate. We are ready for strong and vigorous debate, not here in the Assembly, but out there in the community. The community cannot be barred from having a say in this matter. Who do we think we are in this place to prevent and preclude the broad community from having their say on this issue and exercising their democratic rights?

Mr Hargreaves: You are elected to do it.

MRS BURKE: That is a good point. We are ready to be put these two proposals to the test. As human beings, you cannot deny this: we all have been given a free will to make choices. The right for people to have their say in this referendum is the most democratic approach. The community have to be ready to accept the decision of the majority, and the government will stand by that. That is why we are elected.

A couple of years ago the former Liberal Party president John Elliott told a luncheon that drug abuse was "an overstated issue". "It was bloody important," he said, "that they, the government, won't be sidetracked by it." "The only policies that count," he went on, "are economic policies." There are plenty of people who are giving the same kind of advice to the Canberra Liberals and to others in this community. They say drugs are a distraction; that they are not one of the real issues. How blind can you be?

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