safe injecting room miranda devine war on drugs
A medically supervised injecting room in Melbourne (Image: AAP/TRACEY NEARMY)

The Kings Cross injecting centre was a failure, argued Sydney’s Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine in 2010. After the New South Wales government ended the long trial of the facility and made it permanent, this writer was livid. It had "done nothing demonstrable to reduce heroin use, or cause drug addicts to abstain from the substance that is ruining their lives," she wrote.

Back in 2003, two years after the centre opened, Devine longed for the Kings Cross of the 1990s, when she lived in the area, because "it still had charms". Sure, she admitted, "there might have been the odd gangster beaten to death in the middle of the night and mysterious screams outside. But, in those days, drug dealers weren’t obvious unless you were looking."

The pastor of the Wayside Chapel in the area at the time, Reverend Ray Richmond, told a vastly different story because he was on the frontlines of the drug crisis, and Devine was not. "In Kings Cross [in the 1990s], the police and ambulance services were stretched beyond limits," he wrote. "Council workers disabled all public-park taps. Restaurants shut toilets to patrons, and users were entering private property for water to mix drugs for needle injecting. Trade in restaurants, coffee shops, and nightclubs decreased. Kings Cross was too dangerous."