Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 5 May 2010) . . Page.. 1717 ..
The difficulties in setting a “safe” level of drug use for drivers are implicitly acknowledged in the bill itself. Proposed new section 11(4) makes it clear that there is no prescribed concentration for cannabis or methamphetamine, both of which have been detected in statistically significant numbers of drivers involved in accidents. The bill also anticipates that other illicit drugs will also not have a specific concentration prescribed in legislation.
It seems to me, and this is the advice of the department, that it is not particularly helpful to create an offence of “exceed prescribed concentration” and then elsewhere in the legislation, after creating the offence of “exceed prescribed concentration”, have a “no concentration” limit in relation to the prescribed concentration.
In the context of message, and the cultural effect and the desire to change behaviours, which is what legislation such as this and drink-driving legislation are all about, it is counter-intuitive to create a drug testing regime based on prescribed concentration—sending the message that we are about prescribed concentrations, with the implicit or subliminal message being that there is a concentration of drug that you can imbibe or consume that will not affect your capacity to drive—and then, in other places in the legislation, in the fine print in the regulations or as a subparagraph somewhere, say, “And by the way, the prescribed concentration in relation to the ingestion of marijuana or methamphetamine is nil.” It is counter-intuitive and it is clumsy in a legislative sense, particularly when there are alternatives.
That is the point that the government is making. This is a clumsy model—a prescribed concentration model which is achieved by then declaring that the concentration that is prescribed is nil. That is the fundamental concern that my department and the government have. There is another and better model than a prescribed concentration model, particularly where, if any are prescribed, the concentration is nil.
From comments that Mr Hanson has made in the media, I understand that it is his proposal to declare a zero concentration in relation to all prescribed substances. That is a nonsense approach. That is a nonsense.
Mrs Dunne: He is struggling.
MR STANHOPE: No, I am not. You know it is just a logical absurdity. It is an absurdity that you cannot, when driving, exceed the prescribed concentration—
Mrs Dunne: The fact that you are behaving like this shows that you are struggling.
MR STANHOPE: I am not struggling a bit. It is just illogical. It is a nonsense to create a whole legislative regime based on a notional concentration. By the way, you have created this whole edifice around a model based on a proscription—
Mr Hanson: Is that your one argument?
MR STANHOPE: No. I could reread the speech. I will start again. I will go back to the start and repeat the concerns that the government has.