WOL: How are
you perceived by the public and other politicians when you call for heroin
trials, safe injection rooms and other harm reduction policies?
MOORE: My first election
in 1989 was as a prohibitionist. I was appointed chair of a select
committee on HIV, illegal drugs and prostitution. I was responsible
for setting up probably the most liberal prostitution laws in the western
world -- they are still in place and giving us very little trouble.
Then I proceeded down this path in terms of drugs. As I changed my
views, and did so very publicly, every other politician that I knew said
I could never be re-elected with this stance. Since then, I've been
re-elected three times and more than a hundred other Members of Parliament
have joined the parliamentary group, and they come from right across our
political spectrum. I'm an Independent member, and we have Liberal
members, Labor members, Greens and Democrats.
WOL: What is the status
of safe injecting rooms in the ACT, and what has been your involvement?
MOORE: As Minister
for Health I put the proposal to cabinet, have gained approval of cabinet,
and have put one piece of legislation and a motion before legislative assembly.
The legislation I put up is to protect workers from civil liability, from
being sued if something goes wrong other than in cases of negligence.
And the motion is to get the approval of the Assembly to proceed because
I am a member of a minority government.
WOL: Why are safe injection
MOORE: We know that
the methods we are using to deal with illicit drugs are not working.
We believe safe injection rooms will reduce the spread of disease.
We believe they will improve the health of the community as well as the
health of the individual drug users. But because we are not absolutely
positive of that, we want to insure we have an appropriate evaluation conducted
by the Australian National University. So we are conducting it as
a scientific trial. The scientific trial also makes it work within
the context of the international treaty.
WOL: So the ACT can
proceed with safe injection rooms, even without the approval of the federal
MOORE: There are some
complications. There was some debate as to whether we have an international
treaty that would prohibit this, the UN International Convention on Narcotic
Drugs and Psychotropic Substance. Our federal government has responsibility
for international treaties, and where they've signed an international treaty,
the states' or territories' laws must comply with that treaty. We
do have legal advice that we can proceed with safe injection rooms, provided
we do it by directive to the Director of Public Prosecutions so that they
won't prosecute in the public interest.
WOL: How does heroin
maintenance fit into a harm reduction or harm minimization strategy?
MOORE: When somebody
becomes semi-dependent on heroin, they have four choices. Remember,
they are becoming semi-dependent, they are really enjoying the use of their
heroin, but they are needing more money. They can try prostitution,
they can try crime, they can make huge demands on their family, or they
can find three or four other people willing to use heroin, sell to them
and cream the top off. And it's that fourth choice that almost all
of them make. So those four other people find sixteen, those sixteen
people find sixty-four more. So what we have is a network marketing
system akin to Amway or Avon. We know that it is the second most
effective marketing system in the world.
If you run a heroin trial
and there is no increase in harm, we then have a policy option for a fifth
choice and it's the fifth choice that is critical. The fifth choice
is that instead of doing all of those things, a semi-dependent person who
needs more and more money can go to a clinic and say, "I'm semi-dependent,
I need heroin, what can I do?" At that point we can provide heroin
and we can also provide what we are interested in, and that is the treatment
and to reach out to them when they are ready to move away from heroin.
It has all those advantages, but the most important of all is that they
don't use that forth choice. They don't drag other people into the
network and expand the black market. It's quite a persuasive argument,
WOL: What needs to
change politically for the heroin maintenance trials to take place?
Minister Moore: I think that
we will have a heroin trial in Australia, and it will happen in one of
two ways: either the Prime Minister will change his mind, or we will change
the Prime Minister. I don't mind which it is, provided it happens
WOL: Should abstinence
be the ultimate goal of any heroin trial?
Minister Moore: The
critical part is to not get an increase in harm. Our goal is to undermine
the black market. It's not to do with whether the individual is abstinent
or not abstinent. Every policy option we have in front of us fails
to do that, to undermine the black market. Surely even blind Freddy
can see that the critical issue for us is to undermine the black market.
The trouble is, the rhetoric
gets caught up in puritanical approaches, judgmental approaches.
It gets caught up in the notion that the only treatment is a cure.
Yet we don't apply that to diabetes or asthma, we don't apply that to most
medical treatments. But for puritanical reasons we do apply it to
drugs. It is interesting to observe how successful we are with abstinence
programs. But it is certainly not the key question. The key
question is do we increase harm, do we reduce harm; if we have not increased
harm then we have a policy option to undermine the black market.
WOL: Are you optimistic
about the future of Australian drug policy?
MOORE: There is no
doubt in my mind that Australia will continue with harm minimization.
We will trial a provision of heroin to dependent users. The reason
is that when we look around the world, we see that harm minimization works
best. When you cut through the hype, when you look at it in an academic
way, a heroin trial has the best potential for undermining the black market.
I do realize there are certain groups that disagree with me, like our Prime
Minister. But then, he took advice from the FBI -- say no more.