The Drug Summit was Bob Carr’s political tactic to remove the drug
debate from the election campaign after The Sun Herald published
a front page photograph of a 15-year-old boy injecting an illicit
drug in a back lane in inner Sydney. The tactic worked, the media
let the Premier off and drugs fell off the election agenda.
Yet despite hundreds of speeches, thousands of
facts and innumerable assertions at last month’s Drug Summit, only
one third of drug users seeking rehabilitation in NSW are able to
find a place in a program.
We knew that before the election and it can be
fixed within months through the allocation of at least $50 million
in the upcoming State budget into the health budget and for related
So we will have to wait until later this month to see if the Carr
Government is willing to match its rhetoric and reform agenda with
So what real benefits came from the Drug Summit?
For me, it was confirmation of a personal view that the imperatives
in the drug debate are education; prevention then minimisation;
a massive increase in funds for treatment; and a trial of a medically
supervised injecting room.
Although I went into the summit with a genuinely
open mind, I was not swayed from my position in support of present
laws and penalties for possession and use of illicit drugs and my
opposition to a heroin trial. In contrast the pre-determined Government
agenda, whilst agreeing to the need for more resources, refused
to discuss the detail of funding commitments but instead promoted
I was one of only six Liberal MPs to support the
motion late on Thursday night to trial a medically supervised injecting
room. But my final decision to exercise my free vote in support
of this proposal came the week before the summit.
At my own instigation, and outside the glare of
the summit media and focus, I visited the Kirkton Road Clinic (KRC)
and met its Director, Dr Ingrid van Beek. The KRC operates two clinics
in Kings Cross, one above the Kings Cross Fire Station and the other
in the heart of the strip clubs and night life of the Cross - known
as K2. At K2, through a clean needle program, needle packs are distributed
every day. I find the picture of human tragedy surrounding the sheer
number of needles numbing. Clean needle programs have proved their
worth in successfully reducing deaths from drug overdose.
Later that night at the infamous "Wall" I met the KRC
outreach van that works every night distributing needles to addicts
on the streets. The health workers introduced me to a prostitute
who had come to the van for a needle pack.
She willingly and openly talked to me of her life
as a street prostitute and drug addict in Sydney. She articulated
a life dependent on heroin, prostitution and food vans.
Just one week earlier she had accidentally overdosed
and been revived in a lane in Kings Cross.
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