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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 444..


MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

Given the wide variation in approaches and the fact that those jurisdictions which have implemented a drug testing regime have had limited experience in their efficacy, it would be preferable for the ACT to thoroughly consider the approach it should take to random drug testing before attempting to implement such a scheme. The government has previously indicated that the ACT would await the results of an evaluation report of the Victorian scheme, which is due to be issued in early 2006, before making further decisions on this issue. As a new initiative, both nationally and internationally, the Victorian experience has raised a number of concerns, including the reliability of testing measures, the actual drug substances which should be tested for, as well as the wider legal and human rights issues. Any similar developments in the ACT would need to take account of these concerns.

With that in mind, I have already requested my department to convene a working party of officials from ACT agencies which will need to be involved in the introduction of any random drug testing of drivers in the ACT. This work is under way. The working party will monitor developments in other jurisdictions and scope an ACT policy position on random roadside drug testing. Issues which would need to be addressed would include assessments of different models currently in use across other jurisdictions. We know, for example, that one jurisdiction is testing for 13 different drugs. In another jurisdiction, it is only one. In another one, it is two. So we need to have a look at what these models are doing.

We also need to look at the accuracy of testing devices. In my mind anyway, the test case in the Victorian courts was not conclusive enough. The accuracy of the testing devices, given the different drugs that we would be testing for, does not leave me with a lot of confidence at this point. Another issue is the identification of appropriate drugs to test for. We have to consider whether or not we are just trying to use this to catch drug users. Are we just going to have it for cocaine, heroin or amphetamines? Are we really going to be serious about it as a road safety measure and start testing for pseudoephedrine, which is quite legal. People can pop No Doze pills, for example, because they are stressed but they are unsafe to use when driving on the roads.

There has not been an argument mounted as to the road safety efficacy of legally obtainable drugs such as pseudoephedrine-cold and flu tablets, of course, are the main source of pseudoephedrine-and caffeine as opposed to illegal drugs. We have not had that discussion about how far we should test. I applaud the idea of stopping people from driving while impaired but we need to have that conversation about the reason for doing so. If the reason is a road safety one then I applaud it. If it is just to spring out of the bushes and catch people who have been using drugs in the last week then I do not applaud it.

Mr Speaker, another thing we should look at is the correct framing of a drug driving offence and the link between the presence of a drug and impaired driving. As we know, certain people are affected in different ways by certain levels of caffeine. Can we be sure that a certain level of caffeine in a person's bloodstream has contributed to impaired driving? I am not saying yes and I am not saying no about it. Quite frankly, I am just saying that we need to have the drug driving offence framed in a sense a bit like our drink-driving laws, where we say that there is a minimum amount of a particular drug in the bloodstream-the blood alcohol concentration-which we know impairs driving. But


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