Pubdate: Fri, 28 Apr 2000
Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Copyright: News Limited 2000
Author: Fran Cusworth And Nicola Webber


DEBRA Byrne has called on her own past struggle with drugs to launch
an emotional plea for Victorians to give heroin injecting rooms a go.
The pregnant singing star made her appeal as the Liberal and National
parties vowed to take a united stand on injecting room

Byrne, 43, whose baby is due in 10 weeks, said she had been rescued
from her heroin nightmare more than 20 years ago by a 10-month stint
in the drug rehabilitation centre Odyssey House.

Others deserved to be saved from fatal overdose so they had a chance
of rebuilding and living worthwhile lives.

"There are a lot of people who live in this world who if you'd looked
at them 20 years ago you wouldn't have given them a chance in hell,"
she said.

"I think injecting rooms will save lives. And a heroin user has a
right to have their life saved.

"I think we should at least give this a go."

While critics have described the move to injecting rooms as radical,
Byrne said they were no worse than the tragedies being played out on
city and suburban streets.

"I think it's a dangerous social experiment to allow junkies to sit in
Acland St where I live and nod off on a 35deg. day," she said.

"I think it's a dangerous social experiment to expect the public to
deal with it ... to be saving the people on the streets when they
don't want to."

Injecting rooms would not solve the problem, just save

"I don't know how you stop people being incredibly sad," she

"But I know how to make their lives a little safer and I think this is
a way to do that."

The government yesterday confirmed users of injecting rooms would have
to supply the same ID required for nightclubs and bottle shops to
prove their age.

Health Minister John Thwaites said there was "absolutely no way"
under-18s would be allowed entry, despite a suggestion by Professor
David Penington that in some circumstances they could be admitted.

Both the Liberal and National parties claim they have not decided
whether to support injecting rooms legislation, despite their leaders'
strong opposition.

But they will take a united stand on the issue, which would enable
them to block the legislation in the Lower House.

"We will decide this as a partnership," Opposition Leader Denis
Napthine said yesterday.

Party leaders have effectively ruled out a conscience vote, saying the
matter would be decided in the party room.

Independent Susan Davies yesterday urged all MPs to listen to their
conscience and keep an open mind.

"I think we need to look at possibilities that might reduce the number
of syringes lying around on the ground and might reduce the number of
dead bodies lying in gutters," she said.

Premier Steve Bracks yesterday indicated he would be prepared to
consider any Liberal Party proposals for a compromise on the number of
injecting houses.

"If they want to have any discussions on any compromise, of course
we'll consider that," he said.
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