The just-released independent evaluation report on the 18 month safe injecting room trial in Sydney, is positive on the benefits the facility offers in terms of ongoing harm reduction benefit accrual.
John Della Bosca, the Minister for Miscellaneous Political Fixes, indicated that the government would look at introducing legislation aimed at changing the trial into a permanent part of inner Sydney health delivery infrastructure. The Police and the Uniting Church ( the auspicer of the facility) lined up behind the Minister’s endorsement while the Premier and the opposition leader both maintained the sort of studied silence that speaks volumes about the perceived lack of political advantage in going public on a sensitive issue. Both Carr and Brogden have publicly backed the trial, but ‘moral debate’ is always a foetid swamp for the political traveller and best avoided, wherever possible. The Greens on the other hand thrive in wetlands settings and lost no time in wading in to urge a multi-site, statewide expansion of the scheme. A safe injecting room on every corner and a vegetarian, free-range chicken in every handpainted, ceramic pot! Such was the fervour of the Greens support that you’d almost see them making SIR attendance compulsory – whether you were on drugs or not. They’d probably have piped whale song, Gabonese mountain bongos and interpretive dance, in fact it could actually seem quite like being on drugs….
Then, from across the harbour, the voice of Zero Tolerance past. There would, vowed the PM, be no federal support for this sort of unAustralian carry-on. Zero Tolerance, now and forever. It’s working he assured us. Interesting. As far as I can make out, ‘zero tolerance’ consists of an endless stream of upbeat police reports about the hugest drug haul in human history followed by an immediate upsurge of availability across a whole range of substances that the TGA never get to consider. Salvo Major (Ret) and Anti-Drug czar, Brian Watters, loyally backed the PM. He hadn’t read the Report he said but, my word, just say no and all that.
So where’s Peter Costello? Here’s the perfect opening for a compassionate conservative. Social enlightenment, brand differentiation, a more progressive approach. Wonder why no-one has thought to enquire? Is his fax machine broken? Must be……