In Parliament

Matter of Public Importance - Supervised Injecting Rooms



Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (17:58):

I am pleased to rise on the Matter of Public Importance.

Public policy is about balance. On this issue, on the supervised medical injecting room, the Government has got the balance wrong—wrong in Richmond and wrong in their proposed CBD site.

There is no question that those who are drug affected need support and rehabilitation—no question. But there is a need when you provide that support, when you propose rehabilitation, that you do so in an appropriate and balanced way.

The Government has stood here on this Matter of Public Importance and said how immensely proud they are of the Richmond site, how the site is a weight off the community, how it is a magnificent facility and how they are standing up for those affected by drugs.

What about the thousands of people that live in the surrounding community?

In the CBD site, what about the thousands of businesses and people who use the area, the tourists who use the area—the tens of thousands who use those sites.

The Government has got the balance completely wrong.

I would note the Minister referred to crime data earlier this evening, crime data I am not aware that is publicly available, so I would call on him to come back into the Chamber and table for the House the magical crime data that he was referring to.

I went to the North Richmond injecting facility and took a tour of the facility. I did arrive about an hour before the tour, and what I arrived to could only be described as a war zone, an absolute war zone. I saw drug-fuelled rage, screaming at local residents as they were up early to go to work, people lying on the ground, local families trying to pass—bedlam, violence!

Half an hour before my tour started the Government had organised a clean-up crew to come and literally push people away before Members of Parliament arrived. It was outrageous. It was a total and utter cover-up.

What I learned from the facility itself is worth noting and putting on the record. Three hundred people, roughly, use the Richmond facility each day. Three thousand people in total, roughly, have used it, with six new people per day. A third of the users are not from the local area—they are people who travel to the site—so the idea that this is a facility for local users is factually wrong. And the site does get used by children, by people under the age of 18.

Roughly 25 per cent of those who attend want help with drug treatment, a quarter.

Let me get to that. The follow-up program for the 3000 people—this is the facility that provided me with this information. As I said, 750 had indicated they wanted drug dependence treatment. Guess how many have received treatment out of the 750? One hundred. One hundred of the 750 have been provided with treatment, because of a lack of capacity. This site, the injecting room, is not about rehabilitation. This has nothing to do with rehabilitation. This is a site for people to take drugs, and the people who are asking for support are not being provided with it. It is outrageous.

What is more outrageous is that this Government gave an absolute commitment that they would not open a supervised injecting room. The Premier made it clear that he had, quote, ‘no intention’, and that the Government had no plans to do so.

They have said the same thing in St Kilda. We heard the Minister laugh about St Kilda today. What he did not say is that the Government has secretly approached Port Phillip Labor Councillors and asked them to formally write to the Government. The Government has approached Labor Port Phillip Councillors and asked them to request a facility in St Kilda. Let me say that again: Labor has approached Labor Councillors in Port Phillip and asked them to request a facility in St Kilda. The Minister can laugh though, I presume, knowing exactly what his Government has asked.

When the facility in Richmond opened the community was told, ‘It’s going to be low impact’. That is a quote, ‘It’s going to be low impact’. Can you believe it?

The site would be low impact. And what have we seen since? We have seen workers from the facility being caught using in nearby streets and laneways— workers from the facility. We have seen workers arrested for drug dealing; these are the people who actually run the facility using drugs in the surrounding streets.

What possible faith can the CBD and businesses in the CBD have in this facility being run with any sense of governance when you have had workers in Richmond using drugs and selling drugs? And we know there has been increased drug use around Richmond. Of course—I cannot believe there is even any question.

The other things we have seen, as mentioned by previous speakers: a dead body, which the Minister has mentioned is under investigation, under review, by police, and we have seen trespassing in schools. I mean, for the Minister to come in here and say, ‘Nothing to see here, but someone was on school grounds carrying a knife’, because it was not as big as Crocodile Dundee’s—I mean, what an absolute fool. It is a primary school. How can anybody on that side of the Chamber—how can any parent on that side of the chamber—sit and listen to the Minister excusing that type of behaviour. Imagine if that happened in your children’s school and this Minister stood up and said, ‘It’s okay because it wasn’t Crocodile Dundee’s knife’.

Ms Hall: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I would like you to draw the Member back to this matter. I think he is—

Mr Newbury interjected.

Ms Hall: The Member for Brighton should be sitting down. The Member for Brighton has been using un-Parliamentary language about the Member for Richmond, referring to him as a fool, and is misrepresenting the Member for Richmond’s contribution.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Footscray, that is not a point of order.

Mr NEWBURY: Such a spurious interjection. But we know already what businesses are saying about the proposed site in the CBD, in Degraves Street. It is extraordinary. We know what the businesses are saying. Al Tempo business owner Jack Horton said a site in the city would kill the city:

Melbourne’s CBD has already been killed and now they want to put the knife in. They want to put a knife in.

George, who runs Team Kolovos Fight Club martial arts, has said:

There is no doubt it will affect the city in a big way.

And theatre owner David Marriner said he could not think of a poorer location.

The views of the local community in Richmond are in. The views of the community in the CBD are in. This proposal is outrageous. This is another step in Labor’s approach to decriminalising drugs. It is absolutely destroying the amenity of the areas around Richmond and around the CBD, and we know they are coming after St Kilda next—we know it.