Forget Media Watch. Today we bring you Media Release Watch, thanks to Dr Alex Wodak, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.
In his sights is a recent release from Andrew Stoner, the leader of the NSW Nationals.
Dr Wodak writes:
“Every spring in the United Kingdom there is a race to publish the first letter in ‘The Times’ reporting hearing a cuckoo.
This report documents what is believed to be the first shameless attempt by an Australian politician in 2010 to proclaim that his political opponents are ‘soft on drugs’.
On 14 January 2010, Acting NSW Opposition Leader Andrew Stoner issued a press release slamming ‘the State Labor Government for their soft stance on drugs’.
The reason? Stoner had just discovered, by reading the Daily Telegraph that morning, that 130 needle vending machines operated across NSW and many were accessible to children. Shock! Horror!
Another achievement. Stoner managed in his 385 word press release to avoid mentioning ‘HIV’. Not even once. HIV may be responsible for one in six deaths in the world. And the sharing of needles and syringes may be responsible for one in ten new HIV infections in the world. But that did not stop Andrew Stoner.
Of course, the needle syringe programme was designed to stop injecting drug users in Australia from becoming infected with HIV. And to stop the rest of the community from acquiring HIV from injecting drug users.
All Australians have benefited hugely from the needle syringe programme. A study released by the Department of Health and Ageing in 2009 showed that for every dollar spent on needle syringe programmes this decade, five dollars of health care expenditure was avoided and 27 dollars overall was saved.
Stoner even had the gall to end his press release with the comment that ‘Families deserve better and they will get that under a Liberals & Nationals Government.’
What does ‘better’ mean? That more families will have a member with HIV infection because on forming government the Opposition will make sterile needles and syringes unavailable to injecting drug users?
Of course with a surname like Stoner, it is hard not to wonder what he was smoking before he wrote that press release.
It is time that the stunt of labelling political opponents as ‘soft on drugs’ was put to rest. Permanently.
It is time that politicians started criticising each other for being ‘soft on HIV’. Or soft on evidence.”