Greens cause drug policy furore
The NSW Greens have come under fire on two fronts after the coalition locked them out of any preference deal ahead of the upcoming state election and their two MPs questioned whether the police minister was on drugs.
The minor party, which is hoping to capitalise on disenchantment with Labor and the Democrats in this month's election, was attacked for its support of legalised heroin for drug addicts and the controlled distribution of ecstasy and speed.
The Greens said their plan to allow the medically supervised provision of illegal drugs would save lives and allow the government to regulate drug use in the community.
But the announcement was overshadowed in a Greens press conference by the question of whether Police Minister Michael Costa was a drug user.
At one point, Greens MP Ian Cohen implored journalists: "Ask people like the police minister, who is full bore on law and order campaigns and prevention of drug use in society, has he used drugs himself?"
Fellow MLC Lee Rhiannon then chipped in: "Does he still use drugs?"
The question followed Mr Cohen's assertion in state parliament last year that up to one-third of MPs had smoked marijuana in the past.
Mr Cohen had then asked Mr Costa to come clean on his drug history but was believed to be the first time the question had been asked without the protection of parliamentary privilege.
Pressed on what she was suggesting, Ms Rhiannon responded:
"When Ian took it up with him in the NSW parliament he refused to answer," she said.
"There's rumours around so we think that that is relevant when you have a police minister who harasses users (with sniffer dogs)."
A spokesman for Mr Costa responded as he had when the matter was first raised, saying the minister would be happy to undergo a drug test if all his parliamentary colleagues did the same.
Meanwhile, the Liberal and National parties said there was now no chance of the Greens receiving preferences from them.
"We say no to free heroin to heroin addicts and we say no to a ludicrous, crazy and dangerously irresponsible plan from the Greens to sell ecstasy over the counter in drug shops in NSW," Opposition Leader John Brogden said.
"It's a plan I find personally dangerous and abhorrent. It sends a frightening message to young people in NSW."
Mr Brogden challenged Labor to also cancel any preference deal with the Greens.
ALP general secretary Eric Roozendaal said no decision had been made on preferences because candidates still had until Thursday to nominate but Premier Bob Carr made it clear he was opposed to the idea.
"I'm opposed to the idea that these drugs should be sold over the counter ... because I don't think they're healthy," he said.
The Greens' proposal was also slammed by anti-drugs campaigners.