Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:49:28) — I am actually quite delighted to rise to speak to this motion. It was such a beautiful day walking into Parliament today, and I was thinking ‘It is a gorgeous sunny day, and I am going to get to speak about the supervised injecting centre today. Today is a good day’. I thank Ms Crozier for allowing me the opportunity to speak more about this very important trial that is being held in my electorate at a location that I was at yesterday.
It seems that the Liberal Party is very interested in the supervised injecting centre. We had Mr Smith in the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) budget estimates hearings asking nothing but questions about the supervised injecting centre — not to the Minister for Mental Health nor to the Minister for Health nor to the Minister for Police but to the Minister for Education. They were not questions about education but about the supervised injecting centre, to the education minister.
Mrs Peulich interjected.
Ms PATTEN — Mrs Peulich, it is just extraordinary. Anyway, back to the motion. I would actually like to bring some evidence into this debate. There have been 12 evaluations —
Mrs Peulich interjected.
Ms PATTEN — Mrs Peulich, you are not even on the speaker list. If you want to speak to this, then wait your turn.
Let us look at this. There have been 12 evaluations of the supervised injecting centre in Sydney. There have been multitudes of evaluations done on the 90-plus supervised injecting centres around the world. The health minister in Canada has just opened another 30. The supervised injecting centre in Sydney is near a library. The supervised injecting centre trial in Melbourne was always going to be trialled at the North Richmond Community Health centre. Yes, it is near the school, and yes, that school supports this trial because they have had people injecting in their school — not 37 metres from their school but in their school — and they have had people die.
Mr O’Sullivan interjected.
Ms PATTEN — Mr O’Sullivan, you cannot lock up a dead person. This person died. I have spent a lot of time in this community so I know how these people are concerned about the escalating drug use and the escalating problematic use of prescription medication in North Richmond. I know that some of my party have been doorknocking in the area. Judy Ryan, who has been one of the campaigners for this trial and who lives around the corner from Lennox Street, received an email from a Richmond mum:
QUOTE AWAITING VERIFICATION.
My five-year-old son saw a man overdosed in the gutter when we were walking home from his preschool. He now has night terrors about the ‘mumbling man’.
Little kids and their parents have to deal with this all the time, so if we are talking about protecting children this is what we should be doing.
Richmond West Primary School supports this. The playgroups are not being closed down. I think previous speakers have managed to point out the falsehoods in this motion. We know that it is supported by the community. We know that there have been two inquiries in this very Parliament on this issue. We received 49 submissions when we scrutinised my initial private members bill on a trial for a supervised injecting centre. We received 49 submissions from residents and local organisations overwhelmingly supporting it. We made site visits and we heard oral evidence from witnesses as part of those hearings — all overwhelming evidence.
Even Ms Fitzherbert and Mr Morris, who were on the inquiry, agreed with the report where we said drug use in North Richmond has reached crisis levels.
I quote from the report of the committee that Ms Fitzherbert chaired:
MSICs improve the health of injecting drug users and reduce signs of drug use in surrounding streets.
Evaluations of the MSIC in Sydney found evidence of public amenity benefits to the local community and reduced demand for ambulance services. The evaluations did not find evidence of the MSIC having a ‘honey pot’ effect on crime.
That was what Ms Fitzherbert and Mr Morris agreed to.
This is a highly considered approached to an ever escalating problem that we are having in our community. Twenty-six people died in a 300-square-metre area of North Richmond. They overdosed and they died. They left children without mothers. They left children without parents. They left parents without children. If we are talking about protecting children, then this is what we should be doing. I would encourage the coalition to support the trial on the evidence and on the fact that the community wants it. It will be interesting to see if they even run a candidate in Richmond.
What we know from safe injecting rooms or supervised injecting centres around the world is that this reduces the obvious signs of drug use. Also, if we want to talk about trying to get people off drugs, actually getting them into a supervised space where they can speak to doctors and where they can receive primary health care is a very, very good way to do it. If we want to stop children from seeing drug use, an injecting centre is a very good way to do it. If we want to stop children from having to go through drills on what they should do when they find a person who has overdosed or on what they should do when they find a used syringe in their playground, then the trial for a supervised injecting centre is the way to do it. The school has supported this along the way. Certainly the former principal and the current acting principal, Jenny Deeble, think that this is a very sensible approach and that this will improve the amenity and the safety of their school — of their children. It will improve the amenity of the area.
We are seeing an increase in overdoses from prescription drugs. We are seeing fentanyl on our border. In Vancouver four people a day die from overdoses. We are about to see that level of overdose happening in our community.
I will touch on Ms Crozier’s hypotheticals and conversations about ice. If the coalition were to support drug testing, maybe we could work out what drugs are being used and what drugs are being used in our street, but we have not got support for drug testing in this Parliament yet. But we know from New South Wales that some of the users use whatever they can get. These are desperate people with mental health issues, with intellectual disabilities, people who are homeless and have addiction. They are buying whatever they can buy — they do not care — whatever will give them some sort of chemical escape from the lives that they are struggling with. We should be supporting those people. We should not be pushing them out on the street or pushing them onto the playgrounds. We should be supporting them.
In New South Wales, where they do not ask what substance is being taken, they know that predominately it is opioids. That is the concern. We are worried about people overdosing from opioids. This is not just heroin; this is fentanyl, this is prescription opioids that are being found in our illicit market and are being found through prescriptions. This is what we are trying to prevent. We are trying to prevent the deaths of these people. People may use other substances — yes, that will occur — but at least we have got them in a contained space. We can look after these people. We can try to set them on a path to recovery. By just saying ‘lock these people up’ ignores the problem. It does not deal with the problem. We have been locking people up for using drugs for centuries, for decades at least, and it has not reduced drug use in our society by a milli-per cent.
Business interrupted pursuant to sessional orders.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:03:11) — I would just like to finish up. Of course I have been delighted to be able to speak about the supervised injecting centre trial and the opportunities for health and safety and crime prevention that it will provide for North Richmond. Of course I do not support this motion because it is not true. The playgroups were not cancelled; the playgroups are still running. The centre was always going to be at the North Richmond health centre, next to the school. It was always going to be there and it is going to be there now, and I am very much looking forward to it opening in a matter of weeks.
Do you know what? Point (3) was true. Research does show that playgroups offer a positive social experience; that is absolutely true. With this centre and this trial I hope that if the Liberals win this election they will allow this trial to continue, because I think it would be very sad to push drug use back onto the street and back into the faces of children. If we are to protect children, then we should be supporting the supervised injecting centre. I will finish up by reiterating my support for the centre and my opposition to the motion.
Debate adjourned on motion of Mr RAMSAY (Western Victoria).
Debate adjourned until later this day.