Matthew Guy, head of the Victorian Liberals, says his party will scrap the trial of a medically supervised injecting centre in Richmond, if it wins government at the next election. The centre, only the second of its kind in Australia, was launched to combat rising numbers of overdose deaths in the area—largely linked to heroin use.
Guy’s announcement came after the Labor Government confirmed patients of the centre would also be allowed to inject methamphetamine. "Given the Government lied to the public about the presence of methamphetamines and ice at this facility, in the interest of public safety, we will shut it down," he said in a statement to the ABC.
This was a tougher line than the Opposition leader took last week, when he told reporters a Liberal government would continue the trial but wouldn’t allow ice. "We've said we'll keep the trial but not with ice addicts,” he said. “I will not keep a trial with ice addicts next door to a primary school.”
However, the injecting room has broad support from locals in North Richmond, which has earned the unenviable nickname of Australia's "heroin epicentre." In 2016, there were 172 heroin overdose deaths in Victoria. It's estimated around 20 percent of these people bought their heroin in and around the City of Yarra, most of them in North Richmond. Paramedics present at Premier Daniel Andrews' announcement of the MSIC trial last year even had to rush off to attend to a suspected overdose just 50 metres away.
For his part, when asked about the Liberal's announcement on the injecting room trial, Premier Andrews said they seemed confused about their official position. "I'll leave it to them to sort out the confusion in their ranks," he said.