Education (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill

14 Mar 2007 speecharchive

This speech indicates that the Liberal Party can not support the Education (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: There are a number of issues which are of considerable sensitivity in relation to drug testing students. At the outset I state that I am a sceptic in relation to drug testing as a panacea for all the ills within certain sectors, whether they be places of employment—

The Hon. Nick Xenophon interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: What are you saying?

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you, Mr President, for your protection from the Hon. Mr Xenophon, whose comments I could not decipher at this late hour. Drug testing has been presented to a number of sectors within our community as some sort of panacea for people’s drug issues. At the outset I state that the shortcomings I see with drug testing—in the context of immediate importance as opposed to some sort of delay—is that certain drugs will exit from someone’s system as opposed to those which remain in the system.

That is one of the shortcomings that I see with certain drug-testing systems.We have heard a number of comments in relation to workplace drug testing. It is one thing to test people in the workplace where their immediate performance is under question as opposed to what they might have been doing on the weekend when they were not at work. For instance, we know that cannabis remains in the system for a month or so, particularly in the fatty tissue. However, more serious drugs, such as speed or ecstasy, exit the body in a much shorter period of time.

I preface my remarks with those comments, because I think if someone is drug tested on a Monday morning the result would be very different from a drug test conducted on a Saturday night. In relation to student drug testing, that is particularly important. It is highly unlikely that students take illicit substances during the week—perhaps they are; I remain to be corrected on that issue—as compared to weekends when they are taking them for ‘recreational purposes’.

This bill proposes that we randomly drug test students twice each year and that any student unwilling to participate in such testing can be suspended from school for several days. I commend the mover of this bill (Hon. Ann Bressington) who has a great passion for drug issues and is well versed, I believe, in a number of issues in relation to drugs, their prevalence and, indeed, their cures. Her views provide great advice to a number of us who are much less familiar with their effect in order to address these issues. However, in relation to this bill a number of issues are of particular concern, and for those reasons the Liberal opposition is unable to support it at this stage.

In this chamber, where there are people who have strong views about illicit drugs one way or another, we will hear about research purporting to support one particular view or another, but the Law Society did take the view that not a great deal of research supported a view that demonstrates that drug testing does reduce the prevalence of drug taking by students within our community. The Liberal Party took to the last election a position that the issue of drugs should be a matter for individual communities, and that if communities within a particular school decided there was a problem then sniffer dogs could be brought onto the school premises by the police in order to determine whether illicit drugs were on the premises.

We support the view that drug education programs are a very important part of the means to tackle drug problems in our community and, in conjunction with that, students or young people who have problems or perceived problems with drug use should undergo some sort of education and rehabilitation process as early as possible in order to address their potential drug-using behaviour.

Overall, there is a range of issues within this bill which the Liberal Party is unable to support at this stage, although it is prepared to continue to consider particular issues. I note that a broad range of stakeholders does not support this particular proposition, and I must say that those stakeholders are a fairly broad diverse group of stakeholders, including the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia, the Association of Independent Schools, the Australian Education Union (and those opposite would consider strongly their views), and the South Australian Association of School Parents Clubs and Family Matters (which is a group with which I have dealings in relation to drug education). So, at this stage, somewhat reluctantly, we are unable to support this bill but, as I said, we commend the member for her initiative and are willing to look at further propositions in the future because, clearly, this is a problem which faces our community and it is one which we all ought to make every effort to address.