ANSWER: Name this socialist

rc-am rcollins at
Mon Aug 16 00:41:22 PDT 1999

bill and others,

> >God forbid any left candidate I like who has any chance of winning
> >should ever come out publicly with a proposal to hand out needles to
> >junkies.

free needles and swabs in Victoria, not sure about other states in australia. needle exchanges (handing in used syringes for new ones) is pretty much a settled issue, except i think in prisons, but that might have changed... this got a big boost with hiv/aids campaigners... also, the police association, doctors, church groups have been running hard on the issue of 'heroin trials' (doctors prescribing heroin for long-time addicts) and safe injecting rooms. the first injecting room has just been set up in Kings Cross, Sydney, and likely to be followed up with some here in Melbourne. much of this comes from doctors (harm minimisation - there are many od deaths per year) and police (cutting down on petty thefts) and nuns and a few priests...

there are still those who resist the tide (the PM, conservative christian groups who think of addiction as sin, etc), but it's certainly well on the way to becoming something of a consensus amongst the social control/cohesion professions. and, i suspect unlike the US, the popular image of the junkie here is that of a white, middle class teenager who's lost her/his way. not sure that this is really true, but that this is the figure represented has had a massive impact on the trajectory of the debates around heroin -- which means that people implicitly understand the racism that underpins people's conceptions of how to deal with certain 'social problems'...

i think then, bill, it's not a question of what this or that policy offers (eg free needles versus sold ones) but rather what the popular image of the junkie is and who is mobilised around the issue on that basis (the professionals versus the riff raff). you could say that people here learnt a few lessons from the US: where drugs are intimately connected with blacks/poor in representations of certain drug usage, then the response tends to be more penal and repressive. this is the issue, not anything to do with whether people think they want tax dollars to go to encouraging drug use or not.

Angela _________

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