Pubdate: Fri, 27 Nov 1998
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 1998 David Syme & Co Ltd 
Author: Sir Rupert Hamer, former Premier of Victoria, Kew


Now that the Prime Minister has declared a new proactive era of
government, he must surely take another look at the proposed ACT
clinical heroin trial, which he vetoed at the last minute, even though
it was strongly supported by all the state and federal health
ministers, various drug reform groups, and Professor David Penington,
the chairman of Victoria's well-informed Drug Advisory Council.

Now the trial has been unanimously endorsed by the lord mayors of 10
Melbourne metropolitan councils.

It is based on a similar trial on a group of heroin addicts in
Switzerland, which the Swiss Health Department has officially reported
as a great success:

- - Many addicts permanently cured; 
- - Unemployment fell by more than half; 
- - Criminal offences decreased by 60 per cent; and
- - Homelessness disappeared.

Current methods of attacking the drug problem have plainly been

With 70 per cent of our prison inmates jailed for drug-related
offences, with the loss of so many young people to drug overdoses,
with hospital and police costs soaring surely it would be worthwhile
(and sensible) at least to try something new.

The Prime Minister's reason - that the Government might appear to be
"sending the wrong message" if it allowed a small amount of heroin to
be imported for the trial - seems to have been based on the official
view of the Salvation Army, which of course has a truly splendid
record of confronting the drug problem at the coalface.

But on this issue - a trial with a small group of addicts under tight
controls - the reasoning is not convincing, and I know it is not
shared by many in the ranks.

It is time for some enlightened leadership on this, one of the
greatest problems of our time.

Sir RUPERT HAMER, former Premier of Victoria, Kew
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Checked-by: Patrick Henry