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Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)


Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 Mr MANZIE: He certainly has not treated it very seriously. Mr Perron: Well, you have the answer now! Mr Ede: I have not. Mr MANZIE: would ask the honourable member to look at the legislation very carefully. Mr Ede: What clause? I am talking about new subclause 12(2A). Mr MANZIE: Clause 12(4) states: 'A person who possesses a hypodermic syringe or needle that has been used in the administration of a dangerous drug who fails to dispose of the syringe or needle in the manner prescribed is guilty of an offence ' . A prescribed method of disposing of a used needle is through the needl e exchange process. As the honourable member qui te rightly pointed out, you take the dirty needle and you obtain a clean one. But, as I said earlier, it does not mean that, in some circumstances, a used needle may not constitute evidence of the commission of an offence. It is not lawful to administer a dangerous drug to anyone else, and that is something that I am afraid drug users will have to live with. The needle exchange program is in place, and this House has made it very clear that the lesser of 2 evils, in terms of transmission of disease,is the provision of the needle exchange process. It is something that this legislation will enable to continue. We want to make sure it does. Mr BELL: Mr Chairman, I would like to focus for a moment on subclause 12(3): 'A person who possesses a hypodermic syringe or needle who fails to use all reasonable care and take all reasonable precautions with it so as to avoid danger to the 1 ife, safety or hea 1 thof another person is guilty of an offence ' . I accept that, given current public health concerns about the spread of AIDS, it is appropriate that a legislature make a provi sion that appl ies a penalty for anybody who possesses a hypodermic syringe that may contain AIDS-infected blood. There have been some horrific stories about people who have become infected with the AIDS virus, essent i a lly by acci dent, and therefore it is appropri ate that the legislature take particular notice of this. I wonder if, in these circumstances, the penalty is appropriate. More importantly, I wonder if this is appropriate to the mi,suse of drugs legislation. For example, that particular provision could apply in circumstances that had nothing to with heroin use. I envisage a situation in a hospital. What sort of onus does a provision like clause 12(3) place on a nurse, who has a hypodermic syringe containing AIDS-infected blood - and this I believe has happened - and the health of another person is impaired as a result. It seems to me that that subclause is quite out of place here. Mr MANZIE: Mr Chairman, I disagree. It is quite specific in its use of the expression 'who fails to use all reasonable care and take all reasonable precautions ' . I think that the honourable member hit the nail on the head. A syringe could contain an AIDS virus. In today's circumstances, any person who failed to use all reasonable care or to take reasonable precautions about treating such an instrument safely would be guilty of dereliction. Regardless of the circumstances, the courts wi 11 have an abll ity to assess the situation. Under some circumstances, we might consider that a maximum fine of $2000 or impri sonment for 2 years, in relation to a death that has been caused under these circumstances, is far too lenient. I have no 8855