The Advantages of Compassionate Invisibility

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……

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Gianna
2021 years ago

good one Geoff. It’s perfect for Costello.

what struck me was the figure of 57,000 heroin addicts having used the room. can that be right? assuming it is correct, here we have an initiative that is stopping addicts from having overdoses, helping stop the spread of HIV and other diseases, getting syringes off the streets and reducing crime, and all the PM can do is put his hands over his ears and chant ‘zero tolerance’.

people who are in favour of harm minimisation say it’s because they don’t want to ‘send the wrong message that using drugs is okay’ but really, i fail to see how safe injecting rooms can be seen as glamourising addiction for the kiddies.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

The ‘almost 60,000’ figure refers to occasions of client service Gianna, rather than separate clients: i.e. a lot of service is being provided to repeat visitors. This is no bad thing because a lot of these guys would have been trhe prime demographic for ending up dead in back alleys of the Cross had the centre not been there.

Gianna
2021 years ago

well, if the 60,000 is over a year, that’s 164 uses a day, which is slightly more hits than your average heroin addict will go through on their own, so there must be a fair few people passing through. be interesting to know how many actual unique users there were. the fact that they are referring more people to rehab is a good sign.

kollo
2021 years ago

no

Norman
Norman
2021 years ago

I enquired when the trial was beginning, re what sort of outcomes would form an appropriate basis for saying it had proved a success. from what I could gather at the time, this wasn’t deemed necessary.
I haven’t followed it up AFTER the “experiment”, because post hoc rationalisation has never appe4aled to me as a sound basis for evaluating hypotheses.
If anyone is aware of goals having been specified for the “experiment” BEFORE it was begun, I’d be interested in hearing about them.