Four parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have joined forces in the NSW Parliament to renew the debate about harm minimisation approaches to illicit drug use.
The group will host a Harm Minimisation Summit on 11 August in the Jubilee Room in Parliament House, bringing together politicians, medical professionals, law and order officers and drug users.
The Summit will consider the context of illicit drug policy in NSW and debate the merits of harm-minimisation.
The group includes Mehreen Faruqi MLC from the Greens, independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, Jo Haylen from the Labor Opposition and Shayne Mallard MLC, a Liberal party member of Parliament.
The group issues the following statement about the purpose of the group:
The Parliamentary Cross-Party Harm Minimisation Roundtable brings together members from across the NSW Parliament to examine illicit drugs policies that encompass health, education, law and order and communities.
In NSW, the problem of illicit drug use is a complex and enduring one, requiring a variety of responses rooted in evidence and innovation.
We are committed to working with medical experts, drug consumers, law and order professionals, social welfare organisations, researchers and our fellow citizens and parliamentarians to canvas multiple approaches and experiences around the world.
We understand that an assortment of responses is required to meaningfully engage and address the spectrum of drug use.
We believe NSW has led on harm minimization over several decades and will initially host a drug harm minimisation summit in the Parliament to renew the conversation on drugs policy.
We seek an open mature conversation without judgement on reducing the often tragic personal harm caused by drugs.
The Summit will take place from 10am-1:30pm on August 11th in the Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament House.
DR MEHREEN FARUQI MLC
Dr Mehreen Faruqi is a Greens NSW MP and party spokesperson for Drugs & Harm Minimisation. She is a civil and environmental engineer and before entering parliament had a 25-year engineering career in consultancies, local government, and academia. She is passionate about developing evidence-based policy solutions that address social justice and inequality.
Quotes attributable to Mehreen Faruqi MLC
“NSW needs to restart the conversation about drug law reform and harm minimisation. It is clear that wholesale prohibition of drugs has not worked, and we need to be considering new strategies.
“The summit is an opportunity for the community, including experts and stakeholders, to meet with policymakers and reflect on current and past debates and successes, while canvassing options for reform in the future.”
ALEX GREENWICH MP, MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
Alex Greenwich, the Member for Sydney, is a strong supporter of medical facilities for problem users in his electorate, including the Medically Supervised Injecting Room and the O’Brien Centre, and has a close working relationship with professionals who run programs. He is a member of the Community Drug Action Team and works with LGBTI organisations and police to help ensure safe and positive experiences at festivals.
Quotes attributable to Alex Greenwich MP
“Drugs policy must focus on preventing death and injury, encouraging those with problems to get effective help and on reducing drug-related crime. It’s time that we had an open discussion about drugs focussed on reducing harm in the community without hype, hysteria, moralism and stigma. The summit will provide an opportunity to hear from health professionals, enforcement officers, people who have experienced addiction and policy leaders about alternative approaches to law and order that minimise harm.”
JO HAYLEN MP, MEMBER FOR SUMMER HILL
Jo Haylen is the Labor Member for Summer Hill, elected to Parliament in March 2015. She served as the Mayor of Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west and worked for Federal MPs Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Jo is a passionate advocate of harm minimisation and a health-focused approach to illicit drug use. She called for decriminalisation of personal drug use, an end to the current use of sniffer dogs, and a drug summit at the 2016 ALP State Conference.
Quotes attributable to Jo Haylen MP
“Harm minimisation has been proven to reduce the harmful impacts of drug use, both on individuals and the community as a whole.”
“The best solutions are often found by reaching across the political divide. I’m so pleased to be working with committed colleagues to look at the evidence, trial different approaches and chart a course forward for NSW together”
SHAYNE MALLARD MLC
The Hon Shayne Mallard MLC is a Liberal party member of the Legislative Council. He was elected to the NSW Parliament in March 2015 following twelve years service as a Councillor at the City of Sydney. Shayne comes to the harm minimisation issue with extensive experience as a former Board member of ACON Health. Having represented the Kings Cross area in local government he has developed expertise in community attitudes to illicit drug use. He observed the NSW Drugs Summit that gave rise to the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) and participated as a member of the MSIC community consultation board for several years.
Quotes attributable to Shayne Mallard MLC
‘I am pleased to participate in this non-partisan round table with fellow members of parliament. I come to this issue with extensive experience in dealing with impacts of drug harm both on communities and users. It’s clear that there is no silver bullet solution to illicit drug abuse. Elected representatives should vigorously examine all approaches to the drug problem with a view to testing strategies to respond to changing circumstances. The overriding objective must be to reduce harm and save the lives of those who continue to experiment with illicit drugs. “