Wide Range of Measures Discussed at Heroin Meeting

Wide Range of Measures Discussed at Heroin Meeting
Posted by FoM on March 06, 1999 at 09:03:34 PT

 The Victorian and ACT governments will ask the Prime Minister to let them carry out a joint heroin trial.They have made the decision at a special meeting of most state and territory leaders.
The leaders from Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT have devised a national strategy for dealing with the drugs problem.They will put the plan to the Commonwealth at the Premiers' Conference next month.A heroin trial to be carried out by Victoria and the ACT is among the proposals in the strategy.The trial would only be carried out with Prime Minister John Howard's permission and would be conducted in conjunction with a trial of the heroin alternative, bupremorphine, in Queensland.The leaders also want to see mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug traffickers, the armed services do more to catch drug importers and the faster listing of proven heroin alternatives on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.The Prime Minister has not yet received details of the outcome of the drugs summit.But a spokesman for Mr Howard says he will remain firmly opposed to heroin trials.TrialThe ACT's Chief Minister, Kate Carnell, emerged from the meeting early to reveal Victoria and the ACT want to work together to carry out a heroin trial.She said other leaders at the meeting were opposed to a trial but supported Victoria and the ACT's decision to seek permission to conduct one.Ms Carnell says if Prime Minister John Howard rejects the proposal, the trial will not go ahead.She says the meeting has been productive and the leaders have discussed a range of options for dealing with the drugs problem."The heroin trial isn't the only thing here," she said."We've looked at a whole range of different approaches, right from looking at mandatory sentencing, possible mandatory sentencing for repeat drug traffickers, looking at an evaluation nationally of whether that's an appropriate approach."[We've been] looking at various approaches with regard to education from a national perspective and, of course, a wide range of different treatment options as well."Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett says he is not deterred by the Prime Minister's opposition to a heroin trial."This is a comprehensive program," he said. "We owe it to the community, not only those who are heroin-related addicts but also to their families, to trial anything that on the evidence before us is worthy of a trial."I'm not asking the Prime Minister to like it, I don't like it, we don't like it, but I am asking him to consider that our responsibility now as leaders is to put the interests of the addicts or the person in need ahead of our own personal views."Parallel trialsQueensland Premier Peter Beattie says he supports the decision of Victoria and the ACT to pursue a heroin trial."I've raised reservations about a heroin trial but I support the right of Victoria and the ACT to have those trials," he said."If you see the document, that will also have in a parallel sense similar trials in naltrexone and bupremorphine at that time."Western Australian Premier Richard Court, who is opposed to a heroin trial, says the country's drugs problem cannot be solved by providing more heroin.South Australian Premier John Olsen says the meeting has come up with comprehensive initiatives which tackle the drug problem in a coordinated way.Next stepThe former chairman of the Victorian Premier's Drug Advisory Council, Professor David Pennington, says getting Commonwealth approval for the trial is still a big hurdle to overcome."The next stage is a difficult one, to get the Prime Minister to understand the nature of what we're wanting to do and why," he said."I think if he did better understand that, that it's not seen as just a magic solution to the problem but a necessary step, then I would hope that he might be willing to look again at that issue."Professor Pennington says the community needs to acknowledge a heroin trial is part of the solution."It is very important that the heroin trial be seen in context as only one of a number of things which need to be put in place," he said."There has to be law enforcement against trafficking of an even more effective kind."Yes, there have to be educational programs. There have to be a variety of treatment and rehabilitation programs. The heroin trial is only one part of all of that."
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