Children could be walking over dead bodies on their way to school if Melbourne’s supervised injecting centre is shut down, Daniel Andrews warns.
The premier and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy on Thursday came face-to-face for the second time in 12 hours for a tetchy debate on the ABC, just two days before the state election.
The 30-minute debate was often heated as the pair canvassed the cost of their campaign promises, infrastructure plans, the injecting room, TAFE funding, youth crime, and law and order.
Disagreement peaked over the North Richmond heroin and ice injecting centre which opened earlier this year after a spate of deaths in the area.
Mr Guy said he would shut down the centre in less than a week if he wins government on Saturday.
“I don’t believe it is good social policy. And I guess that’s a value judgment that we all have to make,” Mr Guy said.
“I want to have mandatory drug rehabilitation and I’ll pay $40 million to do it and I think getting people off drugs is a better way than making excuses for them.”
But Mr Andrews argued there would be deadly consequences if the facility closes, saying the school next door and residents had been calling for help.
“We don’t want our kids walking over, tragically, dead bodies,” he said.
“There’s in no drug rehabilitation if you are dead.”
There were some points of agreement.
Mr Guy said there was merit in Labor’s promised royal commission into mental health and that he would not revisit the controversial assisted dying laws passed by parliament last year.
But the leaders clashed over whether it was appropriate for Mr Andrews to stand beside police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton at a press conference about counter-terrorism arrests on Tuesday.
Mr Guy said it was a breach of caretaker conventions during an election, which Mr Andrews denied.
Mr Guy said the Liberal policy of boot camps for non-violent youth offenders would address youth crime, which led to Mr Andrews attacking the coalition on cutting funding to TAFE.
Thursday’s debate, which aired on radio and TV, follows Wednesday night’s people’s forum at Frankston, a marginal seat in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
Undecided voters put questions to the leaders on issues including policing resources, hospital services and religious freedoms in schools.
Mr Guy, who has billed himself as the tough-on-crime candidate, offered a rare personal insight during the Sky News event, sharing details of the premature birth of his first son.
After an emotional start to the debate, tensions rose as Mr Andrews and Mr Guy clashed on bail laws and the defunct East West Link toll road, which cost the state more than $1 billion when Labor came to power in 2014.