Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3355 ..

MS MacDONALD (continuing):

Figures in the year 2000 showed that a staggering 170 million people worldwide were chronically affected by hepatitis C. As we currently have no cure for hepatitis C and contraction of hepatitis C means severe negative impact on a person's life, this is indeed a catastrophe for us as a community, with severe health costs.

This report has 13 recommendations ranging from consistent standards of supply and disposal of injecting equipment, to education campaigns on safe disposal, increase in primary and secondary outlets, access to exchange programs in jails and how to work with our indigenous communities to assist them with access to clean equipment. Ms Tucker has spoken in more detail about each of the recommendations.

I spoke before about there being no magic bullet to getting people off drugs but of the moral obligation we have to keep our citizens healthy. Consider this if you will. A young couple I know are now married and with a delightful young child, everything to look forward to in the world. A few years ago that was not the case for them because they were drug users and that included heroin. Fortunately for them, for their families and friends who love them very much, and for their young child, they both made the decision to get off drugs-and they did it. They did it because they supported each other. They turned their lives around. I think about this young couple now as I have done throughout this inquiry and I think about how different things would be if they had contracted hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS. This would have been a life sentence for them.

As a member of this committee, I think this report goes a long way towards trying to protect the health of other people like this young couple, and as such I commend this report to the Assembly and to the community in the hope that the wider community will look at the issues that have been raised before the committee with the understanding that we are trying to make a positive impact on reducing the spread of hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, as well as the other associated health risks that occur by not using clean injecting equipment.

MRS BURKE (12.24): As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I would also like to add my comments to those of the chair, Ms Tucker, and deputy chair, Ms MacDonald. I commend the chair on her excellent approach and depth of knowledge on this subject and the support from Ms MacDonald.

As unpalatable as it may be to many of us in our community, until the day comes when we no longer have people dependent on using drugs, particularly by injection, we have a responsibility and a duty of care not only to those people but to the whole of the community to protect the health and safety of all people wherever they may be-as much as we have a duty of care and a responsibility to investigating why so many people are in fact seeking to take drugs in the first place.

This inquiry was not established to discuss the matter of solving the drug problem or drug use in our city. However, these issues must be addressed by this government as a matter of urgency in order to ensure a multipronged approach to preventing the exponential increase of drug use in our society today. It is certainly not my intention to take a high moral stance on this issue nor is it my intention to take a judgmental position. There but for the grace of God go any one of us, I believe. I, like anyone, want to ensure the safety of the community as a whole, and as long as there is a threat to that I believe it is my duty to work towards solutions to minimise the harm and risk to our community.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .