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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3060 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Fifth on the Labor Party's agenda of drug law reform is the issue of supporting the active involvement of ACT researchers in evidence-based trials of medically supervised injecting rooms elsewhere in Australia, particularly in New South Wales. It is a matter of regret that we are not in a position to have implemented our own supervised injecting room in Canberra-we all understand what occurred last year. But we do know that New South Wales is proceeding with such a trial, and it is absolutely appropriate that we in the ACT take steps to assess and analyse the success or otherwise of that trial and do so in an evidence-based manner.

That is exactly what our platform commits Labor to-and that is just on drug law reform. There are also responses on sentencing, prison and custodial arrangements, the school curriculum, community education, public health promotion, preventative medicine, alcohol and other drug services, addressing the needs of key target groups and, finally, mental health. It is a comprehensive policy approach to the issue of drug use and abuse in our community.

We do not need a referendum to deal with these issues; the Labor Party has worked them through. The Labor Party is prepared to stand on its policy, go to the community and say, "This is our approach, and we ask you to make your judgments about it." In contrast, the proposition made today by the Attorney-General and the government demonstrates the complete absence of any policy direction. It is one in which the government seems to abrogate its responsibility to both give leadership and seek out the solutions the community is looking for to these important and difficult questions.

What would a referendum prove? It would prove nothing. It would achieve, on its own, nothing. We have heard from other members that they are not prepared to be bound by the results of such a referendum or, should we say, plebiscite. Exactly what are we seeking to achieve here? We are not seeking to achieve policy reform; we are not seeking to implement legislative change; we are not even seeking to improve service delivery. What we are doing if we support the government's proposal today is seeking to avoid our responsibilities as legislators and elected representatives of the Canberra community. That is not an approach that Labor believes is appropriate, and it is the clear reason why we will not be supporting the government's bill today.

MS TUCKER (4.06): This proposition to conduct the referendum on two contentious drug policy initiatives is badly flawed because it undermines the notion of democracy that has seen us elected. In the public eye, however, the debate today is as much about the trial of a legal supply of heroin and supervised drug injecting rooms as it is about conducting a referendum. It provides me with an opportunity to put the Greens' view of drug law reform and public health policy on the record once again, and I will do so briefly before returning to the key arguments.

The ACT Greens have long supported the trial of both the controlled provision of heroin and supervised injecting rooms. We hold that view because it seems clear to us that the prohibition of illicit drugs creates substantially more problems for society in crime prevention, human despair, ill health, misery, community safety and cohesion than a regulated and health-based approach ever would.

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