Media Release: 30th June 2010: Proposed drug testing law raises human rights and effectiveness concerns, say Democrats


ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 30th June 2010:

Proposed drug testing law raises human rights and effectiveness concerns, say Democrats

“The proposed Random Roadside Drug Testing legislation must be based on driver impairment levels and take account of the requirements of the Human Rights Act,” says ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill

The Oppositions’ Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill 2009 is expected to be debated by the ACT Assembly this week. The government has already referred the Bill to the Police Chief and the Human Rights Commissioner for comment.

“We await with anticipation the report of the Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Watchirs,’ Mr Churchill said. “In a speech in 2008, Dr Watchirs outlined the need for human rights to be at the centre of the discussion and raised concerns about Random Drug Testing being compatible with the Human Rights Act 2004, particularly in relation to ‘arbitrary detention/arrest of the individual, subjecting people to have medical treatment without free consent, an arbitrary interference with their privacy, arguably creating problems of an unfair trial; negatively impacting on children’s rights.’

“No wonder Mr Stanhope has referred the proposed legislation to Dr Watchirs again! Our Human Rights Act is landmark legislation and has been widely championed by both the government and the Australian Democrats as being a good model for similar national legislation.”

“If it does meet the human rights test, other things the ACT Democrats would expect to see in the legislation are:

· An “intent” clause to ensure that the Bill is for “road safety” and not for any other purpose. This would allow protection of persons randomly tested to ensure the results of any specimens collected under the legislation will not be able to be used to establish any offence that is not related to road safety;

· Is there balanced and reasonable science from other Australian jurisdictions that Random Drug Testing is effective in contributing to improved road safety? Perhaps we need a “sunset clause” after which time the effectiveness of the legislation in it’s intent can be evaluated and reviewed, and if not effective that it be discontinued;

· an impairment provision to determine what level of a drug in the body is proven to impair driving to the equivalent of a 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Something such as the Standardised Field Sobriety Test (SFST) currently used in some form in US, NZ and Europe. This could be replaced by other more scientific tests as the research becomes available and enable testing for impairment by licit as well as illicit drugs;

· the removal or modification of Clause 12A (2) which could allow a pedestrian, a passenger or anyone at all to be tested and prosecuted. It should be deleted from the bill or clarified as to whom it refers;

· The increases in police resources and training that would be needed to implement such a costly and questionable scheme would perhaps be better utilised by improving the overall enforcement of traffic laws.”

“I made a submission (on behalf of the ACT Democrats), to Territory and Municipal Services just over two years ago where I raised many of the above points. It seems that more than two years down the track, we are still unable to determine an effective scientific or human rights basis for this legislation.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

Tel: 0412 196 473

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