of a heroin trial in Australia
Political Leaders &
Federal Political Leaders and Parties
New South Wales Political Leaders
Australian Capital Territory Political Leaders
Victorian Political Leaders
Northern Territory Political Leaders
South Australian Government Political Leaders
Tasmanian Government Political Leaders
Western Australia Political Leaders
Australian Capital City Mayors
Police and other law enforcement
Church and other Religious Leaders
Organisations representing families
of drug users
Drug and Alcohol Organisations,
The Canberra Times
Supporters of a heroin trial
- the details
Leaders & Parties
100 parliamentary members of the Australian Parliamentary Drug Law reform
Political Leaders and Parties
Federal Liberal MP Brendan Nelson (past president AMA)
Australian Labor Party (ALP)
In the lead up to the Federal Election in November 2001, the Federal ALP
issued a policy statement entitled "LABOR’S 10 POINT DRUG PLAN".
This document included the following:
Controlled Heroin Prescription
The use of heroin on prescription for long-term users has been taking
place in Britain for decades. More recently trials in Switzerland and
Holland have reduced drug use and crime. Health specialists continue to
argue that a trial is needed in Australia, targeting small groups of
long-term drug users for whom no other form of treatment has worked. In 1996
a proposal for a scientific trial in three cities initially attracted
bipartisan support but was vetoed by John Howard.
Prescribing heroin is not the same as providing it free to anyone who
Controlled prescription of heroin is a way to stop long-term drug
users living lives of crime and providing them with an opportunity to
stabilise their lives and enter rehabilitation programs.
A Labor Government would consider a proposal from one or more States
for a scientifically designed prescription trial, consistent with our
international treaty obligations. It would be a requirement that adequate
measures were in place to prevent misuse of the drugs supplied and to avoid
any adverse impacts on people living in the community in which the trial
Medically Supervised Drug Injecting Rooms
The debate on heroin has focused too much on whether there should be
supervised drug injecting rooms. This approach has had some success in
Europe but there has been strong opposition to trials in Australia -
particularly to finding a suitable location.
Labor will work with State Governments who wish to conduct a trial
within a clear legal framework and in compliance with Australia’s
international treaty obligations.
The Commonwealth will also provide funds to assist in the proper and
independent assessment of such trials.
Labor believes there is more to be gained from focussing on other
initiatives until the results from a properly conducted trial are available.
Federal Greens Senator Bob Brown
ALP Senator Brenda Gibbs
9 March 1999
ZERO TOLERANCE - NO ANSWER FOR DRUGS
Senator Brenda Gibbs tonight condemned the Prime Minister for his 'zero
tolerance' stance on drugs in Australia. The Senator highlighted the failures
of such strategies in the US, where the so-called War on Drugs has already
"America imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation on
earth, including Communist China. They have the highest incarceration rate in
human history for nonpolitical offences. Some may interpret this to mean that
all their dangerous criminals have effectively been rounded up and taken off
the streets - not so. Less than a third of American prisoners have committed a
violent crime. Drug-related cases predominate. Due to mandatory sentencing,
drug offenders spend more time in gaol than rapists. -The average sentence is
82 months for a drug offence and 73 months for rape.
"Its time for the Prime Minister to stop ducking and weaving and
make some tough decisions. He needs to stop putting the taxpayers' money where
his mouth is and wasting valuable resources on punitive 'zero tolerance'
measures that have already been proven ineffective overseas.
. . .
"In my opinion, the heroin trial is an inevitability in the long
term. Last year in Australia 600 people died from heroin use alone. It's not
appropriate for the Prime Minister to be digging in his heels on a matter of
life and death for many Australians. He should admit he made a mistake in
panning the heroin trial and let us have one as soon as possible so that this
year some of those statistics might be avoided. The more treatment options we
have up our sleeve, the more chance we have to successfully address the
problem," Senator Gibbs asserted." (Media Release of Senator Brenda
Gibbs, Labor Senator for Queensland, 22 South Street, Ipswich QLD 4305)
Former Leader of the Democrats, Meg Lees
28 February 1998
"The Australian Democrats have thrown their weight behind efforts
to resurrect a heroin trial in Canberra.
"In a fresh development in the national debate over Australia's
rising toll from heroin abuse, Democrats Leader Meg Lees said last night that
her party was prepared to fully support a trial in Canberra based on the
successes of similar trials in Switzerland and the Netherlands
Rejecting concerns raised by a group of Swiss doctors, who painted the
trials as an "abysmal failure" because they failed to get addicts
off heroin, Senator Lees called on Prime Minister John Howard to meet experts
from the Netherlands and Switzerland before committing himself to
American-style zero tolerance police policies.
Senator Lees said he should be prepared to investigate other successful
drug-tackling strategies. "While zero-tolerance may sound like a tough,
catchy slogan, Australia should be very wary of following any of the policies
of the US with regards to drugs."
She said the aim of the Swiss trial was to reduce drug-related crime,
not abstinence. It had reduced crime by 60 per cent and improved the health
and lifestyle of the addicts" (The Sunday Times (Canberra) Sunday 28
February 1998, pp. 1 and 2)
12 December 2000
Senator Meg Lees
"Just Say No" Strategy Not Working
The Australian Democrats today welcomed the launch of the report From
Hope to Science – Illicit Drugs Policy in Australia and called on the
Government to recognise that its "Just Say No" to drugs strategy has
not been effective.
Democrats’ Leader and health spokesperson, Senator Meg Lees, said that
the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine and the Royal Australasian
College of Physicians are to be congratulated for their comprehensive and
"Drug use is one of the most serious issues facing our community
today. It is a tough problem requiring tough solutions," said Senator
"The Democrats support all the recommendations in the policy
document, including increasing-funding for treatment, adopting innovative
solutions to reducing drug harms and addressing the underlying social factors
associated with drug use.
"I am very concerned that some unfair and harsh Government policies
are contributing to Australia’s growing drug problem," said Senator
Lees. "Young people who are cut off from benefits, for instance, risk
losing their accommodation and their support networks. This can leave them
very vulnerable to involvement with drugs.
"The increasing numbers of young people using heroin is a symptom
of how many young Australians feel isolated from society and have no hope for
their future," said Senator Lees.
An Australian Medical Journal study has found that the number of heroin
addicts has doubled in the last 10 years. A record 74,000 Australians are
estimated to be addicted to heroin with the number of casual users thought to
be as high as 300 000.
"The Government’s drug policy - ‘just say no’ - clearly isn’t
working," said Senator Lees. "When heroin use is on the rise and
kids throughout Australia can buy heroin for $30 a hit, the Government must
admit that its policies are failing badly. "If the Prime Minister was
serious about saving lives, he would be looking at all the options, including
safe injecting rooms and heroin prescription trials.
"You can’t help people off drugs if they’re dead.
"I urge the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues to seriously
consider the recommendations of this document and in particular to accept the
international evidence that shows that safe injecting rooms and heroin
prescription programs save lives," concluded Senator Lees.
New South Wales
NSW Greens MP Ian Cohen & Legislative Council
Candidate Lee Rhiannon
NSW STATE ELECTION 1999 Policy: DRUGS: ABUSE AND
. . .
Safe Injecting Facilities for heroin users should be established on a
trial basis in areas approved by local Councils within easy access of public
transport and emergency medical care. Such facilities will include needle
exchanges and counselling services, as well as safe-use and rehabilitation
Safe injecting facilities should be kept free from other forms of
criminal behaviour. They should not be established for profit. Proposed heroin
trials should proceed immediately. The Democrats support the extension of
methadone programs and the establishment of ‘detox’ units in hospitals.
Other forms of treatment (eg naltrexone) should be fully investigated by the
Capital Territory Political Leaders and Parties
Former ACT Chief Minister, Kate Carnell
Former ACT Chief Minister, Gary Humphries
Former ACT Health Minister, Michael Moore.
"Health Minister Michael Moore will ask Prime Minister John Howard
to reconsider an ACT heroin trial, after talks with the International Narcotics Control Board yesterday.
While the board said they did not "support" a heroin trial, it
was a more acceptable option than the injecting place due to open in the ACT
later this year.
Mr Moore emphasised he was not backing away from the injecting place,
but he would write to Mr Howard this week to offer him an alternative.
If the Prime Minister agreed with the board, that the heroin trial was
the "lesser of two evils", and his response was rapid, there was a
possibility the heroin trial could replace the injecting place. In a heroin
trial users would be provided with the drug. At a safe injecting room they had
to bring it themselves.
The United Nations-affiliated board slammed Australian plans for
injecting places in a report issued in February, saying they "facilitated
illicit drug trafficking" and placed the host governments in breach of UN
. . .
The board has argued that a heroin trial differed from an injecting
place because the former was a medical trial of a drug , while the latter
facilitated the illicit drug trade.
Mr Moore said there was a difference but that the injecting room trial
would be scientifically conducted, looking into what effect the provision of a
supervised place to inject drugs would have on overdose deaths and crime
Mr Moore has argued that neither would breach drug treaty
obligations" (Canberra Times, 12 April 2000, p. 4)
Australian Labor Party (ALP)
The ACT ALP Platform on Legal And Illegal Drugs published in the lead up
to the ACT elections in October 2001 includes the following:
Drug Law Reform
. . .
4. Support the establishment of an evidence-based heroin trial as a
national project, ensuring the inclusion of needs-based support services and
rigorous evaluation processes.
5. Support the active involvement of ACT researchers in evidence-based
trials of medically supervised injecting rooms elsewhere in Australia, for
instance, that proposed in NSW.
6. Assess the results of such trials in determining whether
establishment of a similar facility is desirable in the ACT.
ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope
When Leader of the Opposition, Mr Stanhope stated:
"The one positive thing Mrs. Carnell might take to Friday's meeting
[special Premier’s Meeting on drugs] is support for Premier Kennett's heroin
trial proposal. But again, it can only be her support, because the Party Room
will not agree.
"There is some sense in reviving the heroin trial debate now that
Mr. Kennett has expressed his view in favour of it. The original proposal was
for a trial in the ACT.
"With Mr. Kennett's support, perhaps concurrent trials could be run
in Canberra and Melbourne to test the different demographics.
"A trial such as this fits Labor's view that we need to adopt a
broad strategic approach to the problem. Injecting rooms and heroin trials can
play a valuable part in such a strategy" (Media release, Thursday 4 March
Australian Democrats, ACT Division
25 July 1997
Embargoed for use until: Friday, July 25, 1997
Jane Errey, Vice-President
Democrats support ACT Heroin Trial
The ACT Division of the Australian Democrats have come out in support of
the heroin trial proposed for Canberra.
Democrats' ACT Vice-President Jane Errey says her Party believes it is
time to determine whether it is possible to reduce the death, suffering and
crime associated with the current approach to illicit drugs and addiction.
Ms Errey said the Democrats believed the ACT-based stages one and two of
the proposed trial for a limited number of registered, resident heroin addicts
should proceed regardless of NSW Premier Bob Carr's equivocation about stage
"The proponents of the proposed ACT trial believe their approach
could reduce the adverse health effects, family suffering and crime associated
with the current approach to heroin addiction," Ms Errey said. "Their
belief is supported by evidence from overseas.
"The Democrats believe we would be negligent to not support a
controlled examination of approaches designed to reduce society's horrendous
drug-related problems. We should begin the ACT stages of the trial and evaluate
Support for the trial was voted on at an ACT Democrat Council meeting late
Ms Errey said support for the trial from health authorities or political
parties should not in any way be interpreted as support for drug use.
"The Democrats support increased community and school-based education
about the potential and real harm caused by drugs and drug use, and the
development of other solutions to addiction," Ms Errey said.
"The awful fact is the current approach to heroin addiction and abuse
costs the community in many ways: from personal health problems (even death), to
family suffering, to the call on hospital, medical and police resources, to
burglary and other crime, to legal costs.
"Clearly the current situation is acceptable to no-one, except maybe
the criminals profiting from the sale of illicit drugs. A controlled examination
of ways which may reduce those terrible costs is a sensible and responsible way
Jane Errey can be contacted on 249-1732 (h) or 015 288 477
ACT Division, PO Box 438, Civic Square, ACT 2608
Tel: (06) 273-2440 Fax: (06) 273-1251
Former Victorian Liberal Premier, Jeff Kennett
Former Health Minister in the Liberal Government, Rob
Former Victorian Opposition Leader John Brumby
Victorian Labor Party State Conference
Territory Political Leaders
NT Opposition Leader Clare Martin
Government Political Leaders
Government Political Leaders
Australia Political Leaders
WA Premier Geoff Gallop when Leader of the Opposition
WA National Party Conference
The Nielsen-McNair poll reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of 19/8/97
identified 45% Australia wide in favour of the ACT Heroin trial
Nationally a clear majority of younger adults favoured the trial and in
NSW 50% of all age groups said "yes" in answer to the question of
whether Sydney should itself host a trial if the ACT trial turned out to be a
The Canberra Times Datacol poll of 17/10/97 reported that 50% favoured
the heroin trial with 10% undecided. Only 40% opposed it.
"A Herald-AC Nielsen poll of 2,063 people, taken last week, shows
48 per cent oppose a heroin trial while 45 per cent support it. 71 per cent
were against decriminalising heroin. Interestingly, the age group most likely
to oppose decriminalisation were 18- to 24-year-olds, of whom 76 per cent were
against. The views on safe injecting houses reflected those on heroin trials:
45 per cent supported and 49 per cent opposed them. The survey found 63 per
cent thought the Federal Government was doing a poor job on drugs. The
majority of Victorians (53%) and ACT residents (55%) support medically
supervised trials" (ADCA News of the Day reporting Sydney Morning Herald
4 March 1999 p.4 and The Age 4 March 1999 p.A1).
ACT Heroin Pilot Task Force
The Victorian Premiers’ Drug Advisory
Victoria, Premier's Drug Advisory Council Report, Drugs and Our
Community: Report of the Premier's Drug Advisory Council (Penington Report)
(Premier's Drug Advisory Council, Melbourne, March 1996) at pp. 93-94 reads:
Heroin can be used as an alternative pharmacotherapy for dependent drug
users. Heroin has been available to dependent people on a prescription basis
in the United Kingdom for many years. One expert consulted by Council
indicated that it is now losing popularity.
Council received numerous submissions supporting provision of
replacement heroin to dependent users in a medically controlled manner. Many
of these submissions indicated that the social, emotional and health harms of
heroin are largely a result of heroin's illicit status. These submissions
argued that if heroin were available to dependent users in a controlled
manner, more dependent users would be attracted into treatment. Heroin
prescribing would also reduce dependent users' involvement with the criminal
justice system and enables controls of both the quality of the product and its
The National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and the
Australian institute of Criminology have been responsible for planning the
research, scientific design and evaluation of the following question: 'Should
a carefully controlled and rigorously evaluated trial be conducted to
determine whether or not the prescription of pharmaceutical heroin
(diacetylmorphine) is a useful addition to current maintenance treatment for
dependent heroin users?' (Stage 2 Feasibility Research into the Controlled
Availability of Opioids, 1995).
Dr Gabriele Bammer, Fellow, National Centre for Epidemiology and
Population Health at the Australian National University has been responsible
for overseeing the project and was asked to give evidence. Council was
impressed by the level of attention to detail, the scientifically rigorous
design of the preceding and ongoing research and the proposed design of the
pilot projects. The ACT Heroin Trial represents one attempt to develop sound
research based experience of the effect of offering heroin in a controlled
manner to heroin dependent clients.
Council is of the view that the trial is justified on research grounds
and should be supported by the Commonwealth. The trial will assist in
determining if there are groups of heroin dependent users for whom the
availability of a heroin treatment option is more effective and cost-effective
than offering methadone alone. Individual and social outcomes, and attraction
and retention rates in treatment, will be examined.
The trial Involves three sequential stages. It is proposed that there be
two pilots conducted in the ACT followed by a multi state clinical trial. The
decision to implement each stage is contingent on the successful completion of
the earlier stage. This approach is appropriately cautious.
The proposers of the trial acknowledge that the organisation and
administrative requirements of a controlled heroin prescribing service are
necessarily complex. Council is also concerned that these difficulties may
only be surmountable at considerable cost, or reduction in the relevance of
the service to potential users. Council believes that a careful assessment of
the outcomes of each pilot and the final trial is required. Council accepts
that, on the basis of evidence collected in each of the three stages, heroin
prescribing may appropriately be considered for inclusion in the range of
Council has concluded that Victoria should seek to further develop its
methadone program and develop proposals for clinical trials of new drugs which
may offer additional benefits as alternatives to methadone or in support of
withdrawal programs. In Council's view, priority should be given to the
development of new drug trials. It could be appropriate that Victoria be
involved with the formal heroin trial in order to undertake comparative
assessment of the alternative drug choices. A judgement on this matter may be
required if the formal trial proceeds and work on trialing other options is
sufficiently advanced in Victoria.
Justice James Wood, Royal Commissioner,
Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service
The Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service: final report (May
1997) vol. II included the following at p. 228:
2.28 The Commission received a number of submissions urging that the
personal use of prohibited drugs be dealt with as a medical problem and not as
a criminal offence (some urged decriminalisation or legalisation in broader
terms).47 The Commission considers that a cautious move towards
this approach is well worthy of consideration. It is for this reason that the
Commission considers that it would be appropriate for the NSW Government to
support the trial in the Australian Capital Territory, of the controlled
prescription of heroin to dependent users developed by the National Centre for
Epidemiology and Population Health. Although such trial is presently stalled
because of the lack of support from the States, it would provide a useful
basis for testing a number of the assertions advanced by those favouring
decriminalisation.48 Without such a trial, which could be conducted
subject to stringent control and scrutiny, and suspended at any moment if it
was seen to be productive of unacceptable problems, its efficacy or otherwise
will never be known. Until attempted, it is very difficult to move forward or
to consider alternative strategies.
47. AIDS Council of NSW, July 1996, RCPS Exhibit
2809/102; Australian Drug Law Foundation, August 1996, RCPS Exhibit
2809/15; Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, NSW Legal Steering
Committee, 26/7/96 RCPS Exhibit 2809/14; Australian Drug Law Reform
Foundation, Academics Group, November 1995; Netherlands Institute on
Alcohol and Drugs, 25/7/96, RCPS Exhibit 2809/45; NSW Society of Labor
Lawyers, 26/7/95, RCPS Exhibit 2809/68a; NSW Council for Civil liberties,
23/5/96, RCPS Exhibit 2809/67a; Redfern Legal Centre, 26/7/96, RCPS
Exhibit 2809/76a, together with the 'Harm Reduction Model for Controlled
Drug Availability'; Justice Action, 26/7/96, RCPS Exhibit 2809/55;
Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform, 4/12/95, see too the
Victoria Premier's Drug Advisory Council Report, Drugs and our Community,
(Pennington report), March 1996, p. vii.
48. See Victoria Premier's Drug Advisory Council
Report, Drugs and our Community, (Penington report), March 1996 at p. 93
which encouraged the Commonwealth to support the trial which it concluded
was justified on research grounds.
Australian Medical Association,
28 February 1999
AMA MEDIA RELEASE
COMPREHENSIVE ACTION NEEDED ON HEROIN
Australia needed a more comprehensive approach to dealing with the heroin
scourge, the Federal President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr David
Brand, said today.
"The Federal Government's financial commitment to the Tough on
Drugs program is an excellent start, but the best results will come form
a comprehensive approach which combines action on several levels, including
tougher action against suppliers and strong support for education, prevention
and rehabilitation programs," Dr Brand said.
"We should be prepared to look at innovative ways of dealing with the
problem, including scientific studies, such as the proposed ACT heroin trial.
The trial is designed to find out if the lives of addicts who have not responded
to other forms of treatment and rehabilitation, such as methadone programs, can
be improved through the controlled supply of heroin,
"While community and medical opinion continues to be divided on the
merits of the trial, it is - at the end of the day - a scientific trial designed
to see if the controlled supply of heroin can help those whose lives are at risk
and whose lifestyles put others at risk" (Sunday 28 February 1999)
Doctors Reform Society,
Royal Australasian College of
Media release issued 12 December 2000 of the Royal Australian College of
Physicians and the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine:
COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS CALLS FOR SCIENCE NOT POLITICS IN
THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLICIT DRUG USE.
Illicit drug use is most effectively managed when treated as a health
and social problem rather than a moral or political problem, according to the
Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).
Outside the emergency entrance to Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, a place
where overdose victims are so frequently brought, the College launched its
position paper today entitled From Hope to Science: Illicit Drugs Policy in
Australia, a report calling for decisive action to stop the spiralling death
rate from heroin related overdoses in Australia.
Professor Richard Larkins, President of the Royal Australasian College
of Physicians, said the College‘s involvement in the current debate on
illicit drug management was prompted by grave concerns at the inadequate response to this major health problem in Australia. "The College believes
that the response to the illicit drugs situation must avoid a blame mentality,
and that the drug problem must be owned and solved by all levels of government
and all sectors of society," Professor Larkins said.
"As long it is easier for users to get drugs from a dealer than to
get treatment, Australia will not effectively respond to problems associated
with illicit drug use," he said. The report was officially launched by
the Rev Tim Costello, Director, Urban Mission Unit of the Collins Street
Baptist Church in Melbourne.
A long time critic of so-called knee-jerk reactions to drug abuse by
Australian governments, Rev Costello said as with all other medical conditions
progress depends on adequately funded, rigorous research which meticulously
follows due scientific processes. The same should apply to drug abuse - the
way forward is through the development of pragmatic and evidence based
policies," he said. "We should treat illicit drug use as a medical
and social problem and deal with it like we do heart disease or
Research outlined in the RACP report suggests that the number of drug
users in Australia has been increasing for some time, and that the increase in
recent years has been exceptional. More than 2% of Australians aged 14 and
older have injected illicit drugs at some time in their lives, and close to
110,000 people (including 12,000 teenagers) have injected recently.
Other alarming statistics in the sport include: the proportion of
teenage girls that have used illicit drugs has increased from 34% to 52%
between 1995 and 1998; and in 1999 more people in Victoria died from overdoses
than from road crashes. "Based on all the evidence, the RACP advocates a
trial of medically supervised injecting premises as a means of saving
lives," Professor Larkins said. "So long as they are appropriately
medically supervised and resourced, international trials have shown that
injecting premises have the capacity to save lives, and reduce the incidence
of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C.
"Medically supervised injecting premises can also reach people most
marginalised from health services, provide access to rehabilitation, treatment
and other health services, reduce the number of people injecting on the
street, and facilitate the safe disposal of injecting equipment," he
The RACP report also calls for the use of "scientifically
rigorous" heroin trials to determine whether treatment with prescription
heroin improves outcomes for the small number of long-term addicts for whom
methadone and other treatment programs have failed. The report states that
international research results have shown that drug users with access to
prescribed heroin commit less crime, spend less money on illicit drugs, reduce
their injecting drug use, and improve in their social and psychological
"While the RACP accepts the important role of law enforcement in
Australia’s response to illicit drugs, the use of illicit drugs should be
regarded as primarily a health and social problem," Professor Larkins
"Accordingly, the medical profession should play a central role in
the development of a national policy and program response."
"We hope that the release of this RACP policy document will
stimulate more than just discussion on the illicit drugs problem. To reduce
the use and impact of illicit drugs, a coordinated and multi-faceted approach
is required, and that this approach must be driven by scientific
evidence," Professor Larkins said.
Royal Australasian College of General
Society of Hospital Pharmacists of
Australasian Faculty of Public Health
Joint media release with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians 12
National Health Alliance
A combined media statement of the alliance entitled "Substance Misuse,
Mental Health and Suicide: Priorities for the Federal Election and Beyond
September 2001" included the following:
"4. Expanding Drug Treatment Services
Drug dependency is a complex issue, with the causes and consequences of
dependence differing between individuals. Regardless of whether the
dependence is tobacco, alcohol or heroin, there is a need for a broad
range of treatment options to meet the specific needs of the individual.
Australia has a poor record in providing a wide range of treatment
options for dependency, although this is now starting to
change. . . .
It is clear that the current approaches to the treatment of drug
dependence are not able to meet the needs of all people seeking treatment.
There are neither enough treatment places nor enough treatment options to
satisfy needs. . . .
The alliance believes there is an urgent need to significantly increase
funding for treatment and rehabilitation services, and to look at
innovative approaches to treatment, including properly supervised,
independently evaluated trials of injecting places and pharmacotherapies,
including prescription heroin as endorsed by the Ministerial Council on
The full statement is available on the Public Health Association of
Australia website at http://www.pha.org.au/media/healthalliancefinalsept2001(1).htm.
The national alliance consists of peak non-government organisations with a
key interest in substance misuse, mental health promotion and suicide
Professor David Penington
"A heroin trial would have explored ways to reduce the harm done to
society by the long-term, heroin-addicted person with a high dependence on
crime, trafficking and prostitution. Swiss experience shows that many can be
rehabilitated and got back to normal living, to employment and to earning
sufficient to pay for their heroin. it continues to be ruled out by the Prime
Minister, but its time must come if we want to reduce the damage being done by
drugs to our society." ("Welcome new initiatives in the fight
against drugs just don’t go far enough" by Professor David Penington,
Sydney Morning Herald, 12 May 1999, p. 15"
Law Council of Australia
A memorandum dated 21 December 1999 from the Acting Secretary General of
the Law Council of Australia read:
"You will recall that, at the December Council meeting, the
President informed the Council that the Criminal Law National Liaison
Committee (CLNLC) had unanimously adopted the following resolution at its
meeting on 9 October 1999:
That the Committee endorses:
1. The immediate re-establishment and commencement of the cancelled
ACT trial of medically prescribed heroin with a view to adopting harm
minimisation policies similar to those adopted in Switzerland and the
2. The immediate establishment of a network of safe injecting
facilities in areas where there is a high incidence of chaotic intravenous
drug use behaviour.
3. The passing of legislation in all jurisdictions throughout
Australia giving courts the option of suspended or deferred sentences for
drug addicted offenders who have a real prospect of rehabilitation.
4. The immediate decriminalisation of possession and cultivation of
cannabis for personal use with the short term goal of separating cannabis
users from those who would sell them heroin, the long term goal being the
adoption of policies similar to those so successfully put in place in the
Law Society of NSW
Directors of Public Prosecutions of NSW,
South Australia and the ACT
DATE 6 May 1999
STATEMENT ON DRUG LAW ENFORCEMENT
By: The Directors of Public Prosecutions of
New South Wales Nicholas Cowdery QC
South Australia Paul Rofe QC
Australian Capital Territory Richard Refshauge
The Directors of Public Prosecutions have concerns about the
continuation, unaltered, of the present legal regime that applies in relation
to illicit drugs in Australia
That regime, which has been in place for several decades, casts a large
responsibility for addressing "the drug problem" onto the criminal
The Directors accept that they have a continuing responsibility to seek
improvements to the criminal justice system of their various jurisdictions.
They are also concerned to ensure that scarce public resources are not
Users and dealers of illicit drugs enter the criminal justice system as
defendants charged with drug offences - but also, in significant numbers,
charged with offences against private property (eg armed robbery,
The vast majority of the property offences prosecuted by the Directors
are drug related. These are a significant burden on the resources of the
Australian prosecution services, which are already under considerable strain.
The Directors consider that greater emphasis should be placed on dealing
with the health and social consequences of "the drug problem", in
the expectation that its impact on the criminal justice system may thereby be
reduced. Accordingly, they urge the authorities in all jurisdictions to
earnestly consider new measures that may more effectively reduce the present
level of harm being occasioned to the community by illicit drug use and the
commission of drug related offences. There should also be more resources made
available for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users and for their
diversion from the criminal justice process.
Following upon the recent Australasian Drugs Strategy Conference in
Adelaide, the Directors urge public consideration of the following general
- the expansion of needle distribution programs
to further reduce the risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases,
such as hepatitis and HIV AIDS;
- the holding of a scientific trial of medically
- the expanding and improving of educational
programs, particularly for school age children, the overall message
remaining that the use of many chugs is undesirable and may be
- the expansion of diversionary options in the
criminal justice process (with the present NSW Drug Court trial to be
Consideration should also be given to the establishment of safe
injecting premises for intravenous drug users (as recommended by the NSW
Police Royal Commission in May 1997) where appropriate medical care,
counselling and access to treatment and rehabilitation facilities could be
available; however, if the social costs of such a measure are unacceptable, an
alternative course of the medical prescription of heroin to registered addicts
should be considered (depending upon the results of the trial referred to
Consideration should also be given to a regime that would have cannabis
treated in a similar way to tobacco. As a first step, all jurisdictions should
adopt a decriminalised expiation regime of the kind operating in South
Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory.
The availability of free heroin on prescription to registered addicts in
safe circumstances would significantly reduce the illicit market and
consequently the large profits, the motive for the commission of drug related
property crime. It would also substantially reduce morbidity and mortality
from intravenous drug use. In conjunction with methadone maintenance programs
it would substantially improve the social condition of addicts. Heroin users
would not need to sell heroin to first time users. Prisoner addicts should
have access to such a facility, in addition to treatment facilities.
The criminal dealing in prohibited drugs would continue to be policed
rigorously; the resources available to do it would be increased and the
incidence of drug related offences against private property would
Director of Public Prosecutions of NSW,
Nicholas Cowdery QC
The follow report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 7
March 2001, p. 8.
"The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions says doctors should be
allowed to prescribe free heroin. In a new book – Getting Justice Done
– Mr Nicholas Cowdery, QC, writes that heroin profits must be reduced to
break the link between drug and crime. He suggests doctors be allowed to
prescribe heroin to registered addicts who finance their drug habits through
crimes such as dealing and theft. ‘This is not heroin on demand, available
from the corner store,’ says Mr Cowdery who proposed that Australia’s
tightly supervised opium production in Tasmania – used for medical purposes
– be expanded to become a source for the supply of prescription heroin.
He writes: ‘While there might be a slight, short-term increase in
consumption, we might be able to achieve at least the modest measures of
success we have had in relation to tobacco and alcohol’."
Australian Capital City Mayors
Sydney's Lord Mayor, Cr Frank Sartor, said the three elements of drug
control were enforcement, demand management and innovative education. Money
was better spent on drugs management than on enforcement, he said. Enforcement
is the focus of the Federal Government's drugs initiative. "It's quite
obvious that the political leadership in this country has let us down
significantly," Cr Sartor said. "It's quite obvious that the current
strategies on drugs are not working, will not work, and the capital cities
need to work much harder.' Cr Sartor said local governments were increasingly
left with the problems associated with drugs, which was a health and not a
moral issue. The Adelaide Lord mayor, Dr Jane Lomax-Smith said: 'As capital
city lord mayors we recognise we all share the same problem. There has been
education in the past but clearly it's not effective.' She said lord mayors
were disappointed with the Howard Cabinet's rejection of the Canberra heroin
trial. An education campaign will be the focus of the national program.
Melbourne's Lord Mayor, Cr Ivan Deveson, said 'more of the same will not work,
and we will be catalysts in promoting a much more informed debate.' He said
traffickers should not be tolerated. The lord mayors offered no support for
the use of 'shooting galleries'."" Age 5/12/97, p. A7 (p. 6 of fax).
Australian Lions Drug Awareness
Australian Federation of AIDS
Police and other
law enforcement agencies
Former Australian Federal Police
Commissioner, Mr Mick Palmer
Mr Mick Palmer, Commissioner of Federal Police: "I simply think
that the nature of the problem and the sheer growth of the problem means that
we must be prepared to try new ideas . . . and I think
initiatives such as the heroin trial promoted by the ACT are very
positive" (Canberra Times, 30 May 1997).
NSW Commissioner for Police, Mr Peter
SA Police Commissioner Mal Hyde
Mr Mal Hyde, Commissioner of Police, South Australia: "'We need to
be looking to health experts as to what is the best way to deal with the use
of heroin,' he said. . . . Mr Hyde said that if addiction could be
successfully treated, it was 'a reasonable expectation' that drug-related
crime would fall.' . . . Mr Hyde said he was disappointed
by the Commonwealth's decision [to scrap the heroin trial]" (Adelaide
Advertiser, 22 November 1997).
Former Police Commissioner for Tasmania,
Mr John Johnston
Former Victorian Police Commissioner
28 May 1999
"At one end of the scale, you have hardened drug addicts who in many
instances need to acquire about $400 or $500 a day simply to feed their habit.
Some of these have been addicted for a number of years.
There are two inevitabilities about those people: one, they will commit
crimes to support their habit; two, at some point in time they're going to
I believe that if we're serious about addressing that group, we need to
find some sort of pharmacotherapy. That's why I've supported a heroin trial.
Like the minister, I say that a heroin trial is only one of many options that
can be tried. I don't put it forward as a panacea, but I think that if we can
get through to a small group in that hardened drug addicted group, then we ought
to try. And until we actually try it, we'll never know whether it works.
We see all this research coming from Switzerland and Europe and the
Netherlands, but in Australia it's a vastly different environment. I think we
need to try some of these things in Australia to see what works here" (The
Age, Friday 28 May 1999, pp. A16-A17).
Head of the National Crime Authority,
Church and other
Former Bishop Richard Randerson,
Anglican Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn
15 December, 1997
ACT HEROIN DRUG TRIAL HAS STRONG BASE IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS - Bishop
"One of my greatest wishes would be to see an end to
drug-dependency, and to drug-related deaths with all their associated tragedy
and grief," said Bishop Richard Randerson today in support of Professor
Max Neutze's paper on the ACT Heroin Drug Trial. "The recent spate of
deaths in the ACT coupled with the alarming number of young people who have
lost their lives to illicit drugs in recent years, is a human and social
disaster too large to ignore."
"While a heroin drug trial is not the final solution to the
problem, it nonetheless has the capacity to take people on a step away from
the harm associated with illicit drug use, and into a situation where they
might better exercise the option to become drug-free. Illicit drug use and
trading brings with it both organised and petty crime and corruption, and is a
threat to the health and well-being of users and their families. A trialed
supply of heroin in a controlled setting to dependent users could offer a way
out of such evil.
"From a Christian perspective the trial expresses compassion for
those who suffer, and offers hope to those who might seek a better lifestyle.
Such a lifestyle is characterised by loving relationships, stable family and
personal life, and greater independency and self-esteem. At the very least it
represents a morality of the lesser evil in terms of minimising personal and
social harm. At its best it could become the gateway to new life for many.
"While some may feel that a trial might send a signal to the
community that drugs are OK, my own view is different," said Bishop
Randerson. "This trial is very clearly based on the premise of wanting to
rescue people from the dangers of dependency: its motivation is not to condone
drugs but rather to offer a better way of living to dependent users."
Victorian Uniting Church Community
Services Director Colleen Pearce
Reverend Gregor Henderson, National
General Secretary, Uniting Church
"One of Australia's most senior church leaders, Reverend Gregor
Henderson, has voiced his support for safe-injecting rooms and a properly
conducted heroin trial.
The Uniting Church's national general secretary, Mr Henderson also has
called on the Federal Government to show leadership in the drug debate.
At a remembrance ceremony in Canberra for those who had lost their lives
to illicit drugs, he said, "It is not right that people die when new
approaches and treatments are available but governments lack the courage to
. . .
Mr Henderson said the Uniting Church in Canberra had recently adopted a
new drugs policy which supported a scientific heroin trial within a framework
of community education, law enforcement, and rehabilitation.
He would look at adopting a national drugs policy for the Uniting
Church. "It's time we stopped treating drug users as criminals and
started treating them with compassion as people who need help," Mr
Henderson said. "By our attitudes we are forcing them into the back
"[Churches] probably haven't done enough in this area, too."
Church leaders had a powerful role to play in the drug debate because they
could challenge their generally conservative constituency to think about the
They also had some capacity to influence politicians. "Federally
they could give a bit more leadership," he said. "There is no doubt
‘It would be excellent if the Federal Government [would at least]
support community organisations -- like churches -- and state governments in
trying new things to help drug users’" (Canberra Times Wednesday 27
October 1999, p. 4).
Salvation Army Southern Command
3 March 1999
"Salvation Army Victorian drug and alcohol services director David
Brunt said the Salvation Army had not supported a heroin trial because there
were still unanswered questions. "
"But Mr. Brunt said the army in Victoria was certainly not opposing
it and a trial would eventually come" (Whittlesea Post, Wednesday, March 3,
1999 page 1)
28 May 1999
If the Salvation Army is as divided as we are on the question of the
heroin trials and drugs, then I guess it says how much this issue is dividing
My Sydney colleague, Brian Watters, unfortunately sees addiction - and I'm
quoting him from our own publication, The War Cry, last week - as sin. We find
that abhorrent and oppose it totally.
Changing attitudes is a slow process for an organisation like ours. I find
differences in church attitudes north and south of the border. When the heroin
trial was first mooted, the Salvation Army in Melbourne put together a paper
saying we wanted to be part of the evaluation of the trial if it went ahead.
Unfortunately Brian became the Prime Minister's main adviser at that stage. And
subsequently, some of our issues have become very blurred.
When the Premier announced he was going to try for a heroin trial in
Victoria, perhaps the most significant thing I was able to get our leadership to
do was to say, "We will not oppose it." They've recently said exactly
the same thing about safe injecting houses. We don't want to set up one
ourselves, but if it was legal we wouldn't oppose it.
We see addiction as an illness, a health issue. Down here we don't see it
as a moral issue. In St Kilda we set up what's now become one of the largest
needle and syringe exchanges in this country. It seems a little ironic, when
we're running such an exchange, that at the same time our colleagues are talking
about moral issues" (The Age, Friday 28 May 1999, pp. A16-A17).
representing families of drug users
Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform
The Damien Trimingham Foundation
Drug and Alcohol
Australian Drug Foundation
Australian Drug Foundation Position Statement
Proposed Trial of Controlled Availability of Opioids
Since 1991 the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH),
in conjunction with the Institute of Criminology has been conducting a
feasibility study of a trial to provide heroin to dependent users in a
Due to the sensitive nature of the issue and significant opposition to the
proposal from many quarters, the Study has proceeded very cautiously, openly
acknowledging the potential problems of such a trial and ensuring that these
were researched and considered fully.
The Study has now reported to the ACT Parliament and to the Ministerial
Council on Drug Strategy and makes a number of recommendations.
The report has called for an initial six month trial involving 40 dependent
users who are already participating in the ACT'S methadone program.
The trial will then be expanded to involve 250 dependant users.
Following the pilot studies, a two year trial will be conducted in three
Australian cities, involving 1000 participants.
No decision has been reached by the ACT Government to support the trial. The
first step proposed is to form a taskforce comprising representatives from the
police, judiciary, state, territory and Commonwealth departments, the medical
profession, user support groups and members of the community to consider
responses to the recommendations.
The concerns expressed include:
- Addicts would be attracted to Canberra: the `honey pot' effect
- It would encourage heroin use
- The ACT would appear to be soft on drug use
- The trial would face impossible practical and logistical problems
At the June MCDS meeting, Ministers were cautious but generally open to the
recommendations except for Victoria.
The ADF supports the findings of the Feasibility Research into the Controlled
Availability of Opioids.
The ADF believes that new and better ways must be developed to reduce the
harm caused by drug use. The research proposed in this trial is one way of doing
The approach taken by the NCEPH of methodical and rigourous research is to be
commended and supported.
The ADF recognises the potential problems but until this research is carried
out we won't know if these problems will eventuate and, if so, what can be done
to minimise them.
This type of approach is just one strategy to address drug related harm.
Prevention education strategies must continue to help prevent people becoming
users in the first place.
Accepted by the ADF Board September 1995
Subject: Editorial in The Canberra Times
Date: Mon, 13 Aug 01 21:53:39 +1000
Source: The Canberra Times
Location: Editorial p.8
PM deaf to calls about drug policy
PRIME MINISTER John Howard says he is listening. However, when it comes
to the drug problem it seems he is only listening to what he wants to hear. If
there is a squawking pressure group which is threatening to cost the Coalition
some votes, then Mr Howard is happy to throw some money at them to shore up
his electoral support. However, if there is a difficult policy decision which
requires courage and leadership he turns a deaf ear.
Last week the head of the National Crime Authority, Gary Crooke, said
governments should consider treating heroin addiction as a medical problem and
should consider supplying heroin from a government- controlled repository to
registered addicts. Mr Crooke cited damning statistics about heroin in
Australia under prohibitionist policies.
In the mid-1980s, there were an estimated 34,000 heroin addicts
consuming about three tonnes of heroin a year. Now, an estimated 74,000 people
were addicted to the drug and they were using about 6.7 tonnes of heroin a
year. Authorities have seized just 734kg of heroin in the past year, less than
12 per cent of the amount being used. The number of heroin users was up from
an estimated 0.4 per cent of the adult population in 1995 to 0.7 per cent in
1998, and overdose deaths had gone from 302 in 1989 to 958 in 1999.
Mr Crooke came to the obvious conclusion that the present policies were
Mr Cooke could have gone further and said that present policies actually
contributed to the heroin problem because prohibition was creating a black
market that caused pushers to induce other people to take heroin, so that they
in turn could provide money to help feed the original pusher's habit.
Mr Crooke is at the coalface of fighting the scourge of drugs in
Australia. He has first-hand knowledge of the illegal trade and of the crime
which supports it.
It was therefore dispiriting to see the Prime Minister reject what Mr
Crooke had to say within hours of Mr Crooke's announcing it and to instead
thump the prohibitionist drum yet again.
Surely, it is incumbent on the Prime Minister to listen to a person with
such high credentials.
Mr Crooke is not a lone voice. Several state directors of public
prosecutions, several heads of state police forces and the Australian Medical
Association have all urged a change of approach. They have urged in varying
degrees that the problem be treated as a medical one rather than a
law-enforcement one. They have urged that treatment of addicts be dealt with
in a range of ways other than locking them up, or stupidly urging them to
"just say no" when the medical attributes of addiction make such an
Mr Howard made it plain in Parliament last week that he was utterly
opposed to a trial of giving heroin on prescription to registered addicts or
providing safe injecting rooms for them.
While prohibition policies continue it is inevitable that the number of
people seeking to feed their habit will increase. As that happens, more people
will be adversely affected with family members or friends succumbing to
addiction and possible death by overdose or their property will be stolen by
people desperate to feed their habits.
Mr Howard says that so long as he is Prime Minister there will never be
a heroin trial. If that is the case, increasing crime and addiction rates will
be the mark of his prime ministership and it will take another leader to make
inroads into this dreadful scourge.