Page 5490 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Why are we bringing random drug testing back to the Assembly now? The question that is being asked by the community is: why aren’t we already doing random drug testing in the ACT? The time for inaction and excuses is over. The evidence exists and it is crystal clear. We had only to see the story in Monday’s Canberra Times to see the impact of inaction on this issue. The tragic story of Alison Ryan, the grieving mother of a young girl who died in a car being driven by someone who was under the influence of drugs, showed us the human face of why we so desperately need this legislation.

This legislation will finally give ACT police the power and authority to randomly test for drugs in drivers on our roads, and it will save lives. I will go through the operation of this legislation in further detail later in my tabling speech. Let me first say that this is nothing controversial. Random drug testing is enacted in some form or another in every other state and territory in Australia. Random drug testing has been in operation since 2003 in Victoria. It is now a standard road safety initiative practised in every state and territory except for the ACT. The ACT has simply failed, through deliberate inaction by this government, to stay current and up to date with legislative developments in every other jurisdiction. Nowhere have I seen such a willingness by government to remain non-responsive to progressive and badly needed reform, life-saving reform, than with this government.

The principles contained in the legislation relating to random drug testing, or RDT, are exactly the same as those for random breath testing. I know this government have wrestled with this legislation. They have been intrinsically opposed to it from the beginning, despite the evidence—indeed, the mountains of evidence—and the conclusiveness of the science, not to mention the unnecessary loss of life.

It is worth looking at this government’s record on this issue and examining exactly why they have been so reluctant to introduce this badly needed reform. I know that the community remain utterly confused and bewildered by the position, as do our police. The government’s ongoing opposition to RDT is in stark contrast, and in spite of, the evidence in relation to the prevalence of drug driving, as well as the evidence that drug-testing equipment is reliable, non-invasive and inexpensive.

We know from one local University of Canberra study alone that seven per cent of Canberra drivers tested positive for the presence of cannabis, ecstasy and methamphetamine. In addition, we know from the 2004 national drug strategy household survey, which contains the most recent state-by-state breakdowns of numbers, that the ACT records the second-highest result in illicit use of drugs—and that is behind only the Northern Territory.

The trends in relation to illicit drug use nationally are also clear. Since data began being recorded in 1985, there has been an overall increase not only in the use of illicit drugs but also in the availability of drugs. In the ACT alone, the 2004 national drug strategy household survey indicated that the ACT recorded a worse result than the Australian average. With respect to our use of a number of drugs, for ecstasy, for instance, our use is six per cent versus the national average of 3.4 per cent. Methamphetamine use in the ACT is higher than the national average, at 4.3 per cent versus 3.2 per cent. And cannabis use is 14 per cent versus 11.3 per cent.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video