Wednesday, 22 August 2018
International Overdose Awareness Day
That the Senate:
(a) notes that:
(i) 31 August marks the 17th annual International Overdose Awareness Day, commemorating all those who have died or been seriously injured due to drug overdose,
(ii) annual accidental drug-related deaths are now more than double the road toll and continue to rise,
(iii) Aboriginal people are drastically and tragically over-represented in our overdose death numbers at a rate of 17 per 100 000, compared with 7 per 100 000 for non-Aboriginal people, and
(iv) the significant increases in deaths involving pharmaceutical opioids continue to rise; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to urgently address the rising rates of harm associated with drug use by implementing, and appropriately resourcing, evidence-based harm reduction policies, including:
(i) greater access to needle and syringe programs across the country, including urgent roll-out of trials inside prisons,
(ii) expanded access to drug treatment programs across Australia,
(iii) expanded access to medically-supervised injecting facilities across Australia,
(iv) promoting awareness of the life-saving opioid reversal drug Naloxone, and making it free for all people at risk of experiencing or witnessing an overdose,
(v) working with state and territory governments to cease the use of drug sniffer dogs at festivals, and introduce urgent trials of pill testing during the upcoming festivals season, and
(vi) removing daily dispensing fees for patients accessing lifesaving treatments, like methadone and buprenorphine.
Reducing the impact of drugs is a priority for the Commonwealth government. Although state and territory governments are the primary funders of drug and alcohol treatment services, the Commonwealth is providing an investment of approximately $574 million over four years from 2016-17 for drug and alcohol treatment services. The government notes that several points raised in this motion are ultimately a matter for state and territory governments or private organisations.
Labor has supported drug policies that complement law enforcement with evidence-based harm minimisation, early intervention and treatment. But this motion is a typical Greens stunt. It includes a number of policies that are beyond the Commonwealth's control or for which there is not yet evidence in Australia. So, while Labor will commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day on 31 August, we will not be supporting this motion.
I seek leave to make a one-minute statement.
I just say to the Labor Party and to all those people who have lost a loved one as a result of a drug overdose that to label support for International Overdose Awareness Day a stunt is absolutely disgraceful. When you consider that the number of drug-related deaths is now double the road toll, something needs to be done. All of the issues that we canvass in this motion, including ending the use of sniffer dogs at festivals and introducing pill testing at festivals, are based on evidence. We know that access to substitution therapies is expensive and that cost is a barrier to patients. We should have increased access to medically supervised injecting facilities. We know they work. It's about time that the Labor Party and the government understood what the evidence is actually telling us and started to show a bit of guts and stand up for people who are dying far too soon.
I seek leave to make a one-minute statement.
I have a problem with section (b)(i) of this motion, which refers to:
… greater access to needle and syringe programs across the country, including urgent roll-out of trials inside prisons …
My view is: why do we have to have rollout of trials in prisons when there shouldn't be any drugs in prisons that require syringes?
I can speak with authority on this, because everyone knows that I'm probably the only senator in this place that has actually been in prison, in maximum security, although I was exonerated. I didn't see the drugs. I want to know why you think we need syringes in prisons for the drug problem. So I cannot support this.
Senator Hanson, you have company with some jail experience. I have the same objection that Senator Hanson has to that piece of the motion. Some of the motion is good and some of it's bad. When I was in jail, we were strip-searched every time we were going to meet visitors and we were strip-searched every time we came out. I think guards must be getting drugs to people in prison, because, when you're in a one-piece jumpsuit with a padlock on the back of your neck, there's no way known you can carry anything in there. They check inside your mouth to make sure it's not under your tongue. When I was under house arrest for five months, they came and knocked on the door at 10 o'clock at night to drug-test and alcohol-test me. Part of what you say, Senator Di Natale, is true, but on that angle I can't support it.