Pubdate: Tue, 21 Dec 1999
Date: 12/21/1999
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author: Annie Madden
Note: subjectline by MAP

The UN International Narcotics Control Board and the Prime Minister,
John Howard, are short-sighted when they say that the new proposed
shooting gallery in NSW is contrary to Australia's treaty

Australia's international obligations under the Single Convention will
still be fulfilled when a medically supervised injecting room is
opened. The assumption is that this treaty is capable of only one
interpretation: that Australia under this treaty is obligated to
continue the broad criminal prohibition of, and zero-tolerance
approach to, drug use. This assumption, however, is false.

Other interpretations are equally relevant: in particular, these
treaties allow parties to these conventions the scope to adopt
measures that move away from the policy of criminal prohibition
towards that of harm reduction.

The purpose of the safe injecting room is to save lives, reduce unsafe
public injecting and improve the health of drug users, their families
and the community in general.

It is not to encourage drug use. The operators are not supplying
drugs, but a safe place to inject.

The community cannot turn its back on drug users simply because we
have been unable to stop their demand for illicit drugs or prevent
illicit drugs from being so readily available.

The International Covenant on Social, Cultural and Economic Rights,
ratified by the Australian Government, states that governments must
recognise the right of all individuals "to the enjoyment of the
highest attainable standard of physical and mental health", whether a
drug user or not.

Research into medically supervised injecting rooms established in
Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands has shown they reduce the
number of drug overdose deaths, the spread of viral infections from
drug users to the general population, the marginalisation and
vilification of drug users and the level of injecting in public
places. This will benefit the whole community.

Annie Madden, Co-ordinator, NSW Users and AIDS Association, Bondi