Police (Drug Testing) Amendment Bill

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 19 October 2017.)

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (12:41):  I rise on behalf of Liberal members to speak on the Police (Drug Testing) Amendment Bill and to say that the opposition will be supporting the bill. On 27 September this year, the government introduced this bill into the lower house. It was handled there on behalf of the Liberal Party by the shadow minister for police, the member for Schubert. In short, the bill will amend the Police Act 1998. It will, firstly, allow police, police cadets and those applying to be police cadets to be tested for any drug listed in the Controlled Substances Act 1984 and, secondly, change the definition of 'drug screening test' and provide a new definition of 'oral fluid analysis'.

Currently, police, police cadets and those applying to be police cadets can be tested for drugs but only those expressly listed in the regulations to the Police Act 1998, these being cannabis, MDMA and amphetamines. The Police Act 1998 was amended in September 2014 and associated regulations were gazetted to allow for the drug and alcohol testing of police. SAPOL subsequently developed internal policies that govern when drug and alcohol testing occurs for police. Police are drug tested when they are involved in critical incidents whilst on duty, high-risk driving whilst on duty and when applying for classified positions.

Police cadets and applicants to be police cadets currently can be drug tested if there is a suspicion that alcohol or an illicit substance has been used. This bill does not change this policy. The bill does not change SAPOL's internal policies governing when police cadets and those applying to be police cadets can be tested for drugs and alcohol. It does change the sections relating to the drug and alcohol testing of police cadets and applicants to be police cadets, sections 41A to 41C, but these changes are consequential.

The bill will allow a broader range of drugs to be tested for by allowing the Commissioner of Police to approve testing for any drug listed as a controlled drug under the Controlled Substances Act 1984. This is a significant change from the current practice as the drug is required to be prescribed in the regulations to the Police Act 1998. This will allow the range of drugs that can be tested for in the future to be expanded without the need for legislative intervention. Under the current regime, cannabis, MDMA and amphetamines are tested for. It is the government's intention that, following the passage of this bill, the Commissioner of Police will initially broaden the drug testing regime to include heroin and cocaine and will in time include other controlled drugs listed in the Controlled Substances Act 1984.

It is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1961 for members of the public to drive a motor vehicle with heroin or cocaine in their system. However, the government intends that roadside drug testing will remain focused on alcohol, cannabis, methylamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy). It is about time that the drug testing regime for police, police cadets and those applying to be police cadets be extended to include testing for heroin and cocaine.

This bill is the manifestation of an incredibly long process that it has taken to look at how we drug test police. The Police Act 1998 was first amended in September 2014 to allow for the drug testing of police officers. However, the regulations only allow for the screening of alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines and ecstasy. It seems ridiculous that heroin and cocaine, two drugs which are commonly found in our community, were excluded. Three years later, the government is still trying to get this right.

Police, as we all know, work in very difficult, high-stress and high-risk environments. It is incredibly important that they have the clearest head possible to do their jobs and are supported by other officers who have the clearest head possible as well. That is why it is so important that they, like those in many other less dangerous professions, are subject to a drug testing regime.

We know that drug testing in some form or another is very much part of the vast majority of private sector workplaces, certainly for those working in more high-risk industries like manufacturing, for those working with dangerous tools or for those who use our roads in the course of their work.

Random drug testing is a commonly used tool in the private sector because businesses have an obligation: they have a duty of care, as a person conducting a business or undertaking, to provide that duty of care to workers and co-workers. That is a long-established principle and it is something that was enhanced in the 2012 work health and safety legislation changes. Extending that obligation to what would be considered one of the most high-risk occupations in police is extremely sensible.

These amendments are supported by the Police Association. I quote from a letter that the Police Association of South Australia wrote to Commissioner Stevens on 13 December 2016:

I refer to your letter of 6 December 2016 when you seek consideration and support from PASA to extend the range of controlled drugs which can be tested for through workplace drug testing in circumstances relating to critical incidents and high risk driving. You advised that SAPOL's current testing regime does not test for drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

The association agrees that this is an unacceptable situation. We are aware that the Police Act and Regulations provides for workplace testing of police officer and cadets to include testing for a substance that is a controlled drug under the Controlled Substances Act 1984. Therefore, your advice that you seek to test for heroin and cocaine is in keeping with the Police Act and Regulations.

At its most recent meeting on Thursday the 8th of December, the Police Association's committee of management was in unanimous agreement that this should occur and we are supportive of SAPOL's position in that regard.

The bill changes the definition of 'drug screening test' and replaces the oral fluid analysis procedure in the Police Act 1998 and the Police Regulations 2014 with an oral fluid collection procedure, which is consistent with similar amendments and proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1961, the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) Act 2012 and the Harbors and Navigation Act 1993. This change will occur because the devices that are currently used by police for oral fluid analysis are no longer supported by the manufacturer and the consumables for the device are no longer available for purchase.

SAPOL will source and purchase oral fluid screening equipment that can detect the presence of heroin and cocaine, as well as ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis. The bill allows the Governor to approve the use of this equipment under the Police Act 1998 by regulation, which allows for transparency. The advantage of the new device and procedure is that the test will provide an immediate positive or negative result.

In reiterating the Liberal Party's support for this legislation, I want to again thank Mr Stephan Knoll, the member for Schubert in another place, for his work on behalf of the party in providing information in relation to this matter. I support the bill.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT (12:50):  All I wish to say is that I support the bill. Given that we are allowing police officers to protect people in our community, it is reasonable that they should be clear of any illicit drugs that have no therapeutic basis. This bill, of course, seeks to expand the number of drugs for which police officers and cadets, or people seeking to be police officers or police cadets, can be tested for. Given that we are talking about drugs with no therapeutic basis that can change a person's state of mind, and given that we need police to be alert on the job, it makes sense to do so. I therefore lend my support to the bill.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. S.G. Wade.