1st May 2023

The State Government appears to be on the fringe of introducing a “safe” drug injecting room (“drug house”) in the CBD. Originally proposed next to Victoria Market (initially supported by Lord Mayor Sally Capp) and now apparently proposed at or near Flinders Street Station. If this occurs, it will become the greatest folly the MCC has introduced to the CBD. An own goal that could ruin the CBD for decades. Indeed the term “safe” in the context of drugs is an oxymoron. Illegal drugs are not safe! The place where you take them may be safe, but that is all. Taking illicit drugs is unsafe (otherwise make them legal), the environment around the place where the user takes them is unsafe… as a result of drug dealers (who will come to sell drugs to the users), criminals of various types hanging around to steal from the users, residents and dealers, the consequential health issues attached to the user and the consequential behaviour of the user which is often threatening to bystanders and emergency services who inevitably have to look after them.

The model for this drug house is one now operating in Richmond. Readers should note on its website: “Once registration and assessment are complete…They wash their hands, are provided with sterile injecting equipment and are given harm reduction advice before they inject their pre-obtained drugs in an allocated booth.” What an invitation for drug dealers to hang around and sell their wares! Users get their drugs elsewhere and where better from next to where you inject. One of the arguments for establishing the drug house is that it saves lives. Rubbish! But there have still been almost 7000 drug-related deaths since being established. Criminals hang out around the centre, break-ins to local residences have increased, and prostitutes are plying their trade in the nearby parks and streets.

The Richmond Drug Centre is attached to a community health centre next to a primary school. Residents nearby have complained of rising drug use and crime. This paper has recently highlighted residents’ concerns which have been brushed over.

The MCC and the State have sat on a report by former Chief Commissioner of Police Ken Ley for many months that apparently supports a drug house. This report appears to have been withheld by the Lord Mayor and Councillors prior to last year’s State election. Why? We do not know. But if it exists, the public and ratepayers have a right to see it. Businesses (especially those near the proposed drug house, need to prepare and not be ill-informed should they need to make decisions about improvements, renewing a lease or buying a property.

Drug use is a major social issue, and that users need to be looked after is not the issue. The issue is how you deal with it, and the only way to do so responsibly is through an integrated drug user strategy. One that treats the user’s immediate health issues sets up a rehabilitation treatment program and gets them off the streets and into safe accommodation. This should be a state lead initiative that has been wanting for decades. It is tough love, but in the end, best for the user and the overall community.

The Community Advocacy Alliance, made up of respected police veterans, says: “Injecting Rooms are neither safe for the addicts nor the community, no matter where you put them, as they do not even rate as a band-aid to the issue. It is even questionable that they save lives.”

They go on to say: “The CAA believes the solution will be based on proactive intervention, law enforcement (not passive avoidance) along with appropriate rehabilitative infrastructure.

The use of Health Orders to place addicts or users in a secure medical facility so that their overall health can be attended to…is the key.”

This is common sense, and the MCC will lead Melbourne into a social and economic abyss if it continues to proceed with setting up a drug house in the CBD.  Melbourne contributes a substantial proportion of the nation’s GDP. It serves as a gateway for international trade and investment. Allowing a drug house and the associated criminal activity in the CBD will:

  • deter businesses and individuals from investing in and locating to the CBD. It will indeed lead to businesses leaving the CBD
  • Impact the quality of life of residents in the city and deter shoppers and the broader community from coming into the city.
  • Damage Melbourne’s international reputation and image. This will impact our major events and tourists coming to the city
  • Lead to a long-term decline in economic activity and a reduction in job opportunities.

Finally, I ask, do any of us want our children or grandchildren to become inured to homelessness, drug addiction, crime and public sex acts?

This is what will happen on our streets if we do not act now to stop it.

Francis Galbally

Lawyer & Businessman

Herald Sun Contributor

1st May 2023