The Fifth Estate is a live journalism series by Sally Warhaft, now in its sixth year at the Wheeler Centre.
Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.
She was joined by Fiona Patten MLC and Senator Richard Di Natale on the 14th of June for this discussion.
In the 1980s, Australia was an early adopter of free needle syringe distribution programs. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, this controversial harm-reduction strategy played a crucial role in mitigating the spread of HIV among Australian injecting drug-users. Despite our history of success with harm-reduction approaches, legislators – and large portions of the public – remain squeamish about these policies. Across Australia, parliaments are still more inclined to pass punitive anti-drug laws. But is this working, and is this even cost-effective?