Page 1115 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008
MR HARGREAVES: I thank members for giving me leave to make a statement on the government’s intention to consult the community about an important topic—random roadside drug testing of drivers of motor vehicles.
Mr Smyth: Must be hurting—
MR HARGREAVES: Have you got a problem?
MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Hargreaves, you have been given leave to make a statement.
MR HARGREAVES: In 2006, I asked my department to establish a working group to watch what was happening in other jurisdictions and report to me on the findings. At that time, roadside drug testing had been trialled in Victoria and nowhere else in this country. The technology was new and largely untried, and there was debate about whether the testing was about road safety or whether it was about catching drug users and punishing them for using drugs rather than endangering other road users.
That is an important distinction and one that worried me. As a minister, I will do whatever I can to improve road safety, but I am not going to be involved in punishing ACT drug users for their addiction. The government’s attitude in relation to that is clear. We have adopted a harm minimisation approach to drug users and we will stick to that.
Although believed to be not as prevalent as drink driving, the rate of drug driving—that is, driving under the influence of a drug other than alcohol—is a concern. According to the latest national drug strategy household survey, 3.3 per cent of drivers reported driving under the influence of a drug other than alcohol in the past 12 months. The rate of drug driving was even higher among young people, and males in particular. A recent analysis of the first year of random roadside drug testing in Victoria in 2004 showed that 2.4 per cent of drivers were driving with the presence of THC, which is the active constituent of cannabis from recent use, methamphetamine, commonly known as speed or ice, and/or MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.
In a recent ACT experiment in conjunction with the University of Canberra, which was publicised a couple of weeks ago, six per cent of volunteer drivers tested positive to the presence of illicit drugs. If six per cent of volunteers—that is, people who know they have been using drugs—tested positive, we have to wonder how widespread drug driving is.
At the end of 2006 and through 2007, a number of states and the Northern Territory legislated to permit the introduction of roadside drug testing. The ACT is now the only jurisdiction in Australia that does not have a regime for random roadside drug testing for drivers that is similar to roadside testing for alcohol. That is not to say that drug driving is permitted. Our legislation already provides for blood analysis where the police suspect a driver of driving under the influence of an impairing drug, and