Page 4265 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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That is Howard—

at the last election. Had I known I would have voted Labor.”

The Daily Telegraph stated: “While Australians across the country protested against the Howard Government’s industrial relations changes, the Prime Minister was in Sydney, proclaiming the public had been misinformed about his legislation.” Even the Australian had a report on the protest—and I am sure this was much to their disgust.

To sum up: 545,000 people, standing ovations, lead story and media coverage in every newspaper and on every TV channel, and strategic planning to continue the action plan fight right through to the next election—hardly the stuff of an irrelevant labour movement, Mr Mulcahy. But at least your views are consistent with those of your leader, Mr Howard: he too refuses to acknowledge the great level of distrust surrounding his work choices.

It was magnificent to witness 545,000 people gathering together in solidarity on their first day of action. I congratulate the labour movement here in the ACT and across all of Australia.

Prisons—needle exchange program

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (6.07): I thought I would use this adjournment debate as an opportunity to try to correct some misinformation that I believe is adrift amongst people in this place in relation to occupational health and safety and other issues related to needles in prisons. People are probably aware that on Monday night I hosted a forum that was organised by CAHMA to raise issues related to this, because there are people in the community who want to make sure that at this stage of planning for the ACT prison, which is supposed to be a state-of-the-art, human rights compatible prison, we start talking about this issue now. We are well aware that in Australia there are as yet no prisons with safe injecting equipment programs and it seems to me that the best policy approach is to bring in such a program at the beginning rather than deal with disastrous health issues later on.

I heard Mr Stefaniak saying in the media the other day that he felt it was an occupational health and safety issue; that, if people had needles in prisons, there would be more danger to officers. What he probably is not aware of is that, while injecting equipment is illegal, such equipment—often made from the outside of a biro, a pin or even the actual pointed bit of the biro without the little ball—is used, and people who have this equipment, which is very rare, have a lot of power in a prison. So it becomes a bargaining tool and, of course, we lack the ability to clean this or any dangerous and very dirty equipment, so that just exacerbates the issue.

The fact is that drugs are not being kept out of prisons now, and not allowing something like a needle and syringe exchange program is not going to make our prisons drug free. That is a sad thing, but it is a fact. It is about facing facts—not closing our eyes—and not letting people who may have been given a short sentence in a prison have a life sentence of illness, which they may communicate to their friends, their partners and anyone else they might share a needle with later on or, of course, have unprotected sex with.

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