Victorian Coalition to scrap safe injecting room trial after initial policy confusion
Confusion has hit the State Opposition over the future of a safe drug use room under a Matthew Guy-led government, with senior members of the Coalition unable to say what will happen if it wins office.
Mr Guy has since clarified the position by saying because ice would be allowed to be used at the centre, the party would scrap the trial.
It came after prominent shadow cabinet minister Tim Smith declared in a Liberal Party video that a Coalition government would scrap the drug injecting room trial in North Richmond if elected, despite Mr Guy saying at a press conference last week that the trial would continue.
But in another interview Mr Guy said the centre would be scrapped because of the presence of ice and methamphetamines, which had compromised the original intent of the trial.
Several party figures told the ABC there was confusion among MPs — many did not know the policy themselves — about what would happen to the trial if the Coalition wins office on November 24.
Last year the Andrews Government changed its policy and passed legislation to run a two-year trial of a safe injecting room in North Richmond, an area plagued by heroin overdose deaths in recent years.
After originally saying the centre would only be for heroin use, the Government last week said, on the advice of experts, that ice and other drugs of dependence could be used.
The injecting room in Sydney’s Kings Cross allows both.
‘Get rid of this thing immediately’
In the wake of that decision, on April 11, Mr Guy labelled the Government’s decision “irresponsible” but said an elected Coalition government would continue the trial, but without ice being allowed.
“We’ve said we’ll keep the trial but not with ice addicts. I will not keep a trial with ice addicts next door to a primary school,” Mr Guy said last week.
But two days later, in one of the Liberal Party’s video posts on its YouTube channel, scrutiny of government spokesman Tim Smith vowed the Coalition would scrap the centre.
“A Matthew Guy-led Liberal-National government would get rid of this thing immediately,” he said.
Asked about it on 3AW radio, Mr Guy said ice should not be allowed and that it should be shut down.
“The facility shouldn’t be there. We voted against it in the Parliament and if the thing can be shut down we would,” he said.
“Given the Government lied to the public about the presence of methamphetamines and ice at this facility, in the interest of public safety we will shut it down,” Mr Guy said in a later statement.
While shadow cabinet backed the decision to oppose the legislation for the trial, sources say there has been no discussion since about what to do with the centre if the Coalition wins office.
Others report significant pressure from outside the party room from the membership for the entire centre to be scrapped in the event of victory.
Asked about the Opposition’s position, Premier Daniel Andrews said he would “leave it to them to sort out the confusion in their ranks”.