Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Drug harm reduction


Drug harm reduction

Aiv PUGLIELLI (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:19): (46) My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Mental Health. Minister, in February 2017 the Premier flat-out rejected calls from the coroner, the community, expert health groups and first responders to establish a safe injecting room in Melbourne. By October of the same year the government changed its mind and introduced a two-year trial. The safe injecting room’s success is further proof that when we adopt a health-based harm reduction approach to drug policy we save lives and divert people away from the justice system. Minister, will your government abandon its piecemeal approach and implement a best practice harm reduction approach, including publicly accessible pill testing and mandatory early warning drug alerts?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:20): I thank the member for his question, but it kind of went somewhere I was not expecting it to go at the end, because you were talking about safe injecting rooms and the government’s pathway to making that important decision and then you flicked to pill testing. Correct?

Aiv Puglielli: Drug harm reduction.

Jaclyn SYMES: Drug harm reduction as a general policy? All right. In my opinion – I will pass your question on – there are quite a few bits to that, but I am sure that the Minister for Mental Health will be more than happy to provide an answer to the last bit of your question.

Aiv PUGLIELLI (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:20): I thank the minister for referring the question for answer. Since the Premier’s backflip on the safe injecting room has worked out so well, has the countdown started to this government realising that it is wrong about pill testing too?

Nicholas McGowan: On a point of order, President, the question seeks an opinion, which cannot be given.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr McGowan. Your point of order is correct. I am happy to let Mr Puglielli rephrase his question if he pleases.

Aiv PUGLIELLI: I will rephrase the question, thank you. Will the government introduce pill testing in Victoria?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:22): I thank the member for his question. Again I would just reflect on some of the commentary that you made, as a member of the parliamentary committee that did an inquiry into the safe injecting room in North Richmond. Describing the pathway to government implementing that policy is probably not accurately reflected in your language as a ‘backflip’. But that being said, your supplementary question is directly related to pill testing, and I will pass that on to Minister Williams.