Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Contact:  Fri, 22 Jan 1999
Author: Peter Watney


SHARPE'S tragically accurate picture of "The unsafe injecting room..." (CT,
18 January, p.8) shows starkly the message our present illicit-drug
policies send to our children.

Decades ago our Federal Government gave in to American pressure and
prohibited certain drugs. It did this without any public discussion, and
without any criteria set that might show whether this radical change in
methods of control would provide the benefits claimed for it.

A few months ago Amanda Vanstone boasted that the capture of 400kg of
heroin would decrease the supplies to users and increase the cost. It has
done neither. It has made no perceptible difference at all.

Four years ago we had a costly and wide-ranging public discussion of a plan
for safe injecting rooms, counselling, and the supply of clinical-quality
heroin to registered local dependent users of heroin. It was called "The
Heroin Trial".

Two years ago there was broad public acceptance, Legislative Assembly
agreement, Ministerial Council and Federal Cabinet approval, and Mr Howard
stepped in and vetoed the supply of clinical-quality heroin.

What is the use of wide-ranging and costly public debate if one politician
can sweep it all aside on the specious grounds of the "message it might
send to our children"? The deaths, the emergencies, the infections
continued to escalate.

Isn't it time that our politicians take a little courage into their hands,
show a little leadership, and try just one little measure that has produced
dramatic results elsewhere, without having to wait another however many
months and for however many dollars worth of public discussion going over
the same ground covered in 1995?


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