Labor’s broken harm minimisation model threatens community safety
Recent speculation that a medically supervised injecting room will be located at the Salvos at the top of Bourke St demonstrates the Andrews Government’s disregard for our community.
It also shows an utter lack of respect for the difficulties CBD traders faced during lockdowns and for the progress they have made rebuilding our city into the destination precinct it once was.
To be clear, I do not oppose the establishment of a medically supervised injection room in principle. In fact, I believe that if these facilities are located in an appropriate location like a health precinct and with proper community consultation, they can contribute successfully to drug harm reduction.
Unfortunately, the past missteps of the Andrews Government have already cast a shadow on the merit of these facilities.
The North Richmond facility is located only 50 metres from a primary school, causing great distress to parents and pushing Victoria St traders to the wall.
The proposed CBD injecting room in our historic Bourke St precinct would be located only metres from renowned Melbourne institutions, just 200 metres from Parliament House and around the corner from the Princess Theatre.
Just as our city’s traders and hospitality sector are recovering from the pandemic and enduring one of the world’s longest lockdowns, the government’s decision threatens to set back their progress.
The Police Association, through secretary Wayne Gatt, also expressed its scepticism about the chosen location.
Mr Gatt said, “The top of Bourke St and the CBD in general is the wrong place to put an injecting room” and warned it could stretch police resources to unsustainable levels, impacting the safety of the area.
Police patrolling around the North Richmond facility have said that they were instructed to ignore drug deals around the facility, creating a honeypot. Retired police officer Mick Wilmott has predicted the same orders will occur in the CBD.
This means that we could see drug deals on the steps of Parliament, perhaps in the background of wedding photos, with police powerless to prevent them.
Even more concerningly, every year, more than 10,000 students tour Parliament House hoping to learn about parliamentary democracy.
The proposed location is also close to the Parliament Station and the tram stop where many families with children disembark, looking forward to seeing their first show at the Princess Theatre.
We don’t want kids to see their first drug deal while on their way to see Harry Potter.
Labor’s broken harm minimisation model does no more than pose a danger to the safety of children, families, traders, tourists, and the wider community.
To ensure Melbourne is the most vibrant and safe city it can be, the Andrews Government must consult with the chorus of voices expressing concern with the proposed location.
It’s time that the government goes back to the drawing board and engages in genuine and meaningful consultation with residents and businesses before committing to this flawed proposition. •
Evan Mulholland is the Liberal MP for the Northern Metropolitan, representing Melbourne’s CBD in the State Parliament.