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Thursday, 13 April 2000
Page: 15989

Ms ROXON (5:48 PM) —Tonight, I would like to speak to the House about an ongoing problem in my electorate of Gellibrand, that being the very severe heroin problem. Everybody knows that Footscray is one of the four or five hotspots in Melbourne for the heroin trade and heroin use. I would like to speak briefly tonight about some fantastic work that the Footscray police have been doing in the area. They have had a blitz in recent weeks and undertaken an operation called `Operation Reform'. I am told that over 100 people have been arrested as a result of this operation, with half of those people charged with drug trafficking. Obviously, it is fantastic news for the traders and general public in the area that we are not going to allow drug traffickers in our area. I think we should also commend the Victorian state government for assigning 16 or so extra police in Footscray. This is the start of the Bracks government's commitment to providing more police in the area.

Whilst I would like to commend the police for the work they have done and the Victorian government's attempts to deal with this issue, obviously that deals only with part of the problem. We are going to have a debate in my electorate very soon about a supervised injecting room. Footscray is one of the areas that has been proposed to have a supervised injecting room. When we deal with this controversial issue it is obviously important, while saying the police are doing a good job and dealing with the traffickers, to make sure that we deal in a compassionate way with the people who are addicted to this drug. Supervised injecting rooms are again one part of dealing with this problem. I would encourage calm debate. It is obviously going to be a difficult issue for our community, but I think it is part of what we need to do to deal with this problem.

This federal government has let us down on this issue. Obviously, when dealing with the heroin problem it is very important not only to look at policing and harm minimisation strategies but also to provide sufficient funding for education, detox programs and rehabilitation. This government, despite its Tough on Drugs strategy, has recently crowed about the $4 million that it has allocated for 63 projects across Australia for community groups. Not one cent of that money has gone to my electorate of Gellibrand. Despite agreement across the country that Footscray is one of the centres for the heroin trade, not one of the projects that deals with rehabilitation, detoxification and many other community initiatives that seek to deal with this issue of drug abuse and illicit drug use in a compassionate way has been granted any funding from this government.

I urge the government when it goes through its next round of Tough on Drugs funding to consider more favourably the applications made by the Western Region Health Centre and the Westgate Division of Family Medicine for the proposals that they have to deal with this issue constructively. I know also that the Footscray District Football League has proposed a mentoring program to try to assist young people who have a problem with illicit drug use. I also commend that to the government.

The state government, through the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Andre Haermeyer, has granted the Maribyrnong Council extra funding to deal with this issue. We do need assistance at the federal level. Policing is not sufficient. Supervised injecting rooms are not sufficient. Obviously, we do need to have funding from this government at the level of dealing with rehabilitation, education and detoxification.