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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23294

Mr BARTLETT (2:10 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to recent criticism by the New South Wales Premier of the Prime Minister's action in writing to the states about opposition by the International Narcotics Control Board to heroin injecting rooms?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Macquarie for his question. I am aware that this morning the New South Wales Premier expressed surprise at the fact that I had written to him, and indeed to other premiers and chief ministers, drawing attention to the fact that the International Narcotics Control Board has stated that the establishment of drug injecting rooms or similar outlets offers no solution to the problem of drug abuse but rather facilitates drug abuse. The situation is that this government remain tough in an unconditional way so far as their attitude towards drug abuse is concerned. We have invested more than $1 billion in the Tough on Drugs program. It has not only been responsible in a significant way to a reduction in heroin deaths from overdose but also contributed in different ways to strengthening the Australian community's fight against drug abuse. It has three elements: education, prevention and rehabilitation. In all three areas it is working effectively.

We do not support the establishment of heroin injecting rooms. Our position remains totally opposed to them. In that way our view is different from that of the New South Wales government. I simply place on the record the fact that the federal government will not in any way assist any of the states or territories or facilitate in any way the opening, extension or maintenance of heroin injecting rooms, nor will we in any way facilitate, support or encourage the conduct by any states or territories of trials of heroin use. We regard that as a defeatist, negative attitude and it is something we will always totally oppose.