Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
NT MP wants ice random drug tests for Darwin workers and nightclub patrons -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The chairman of the Northern Territory's parliamentary inquiry into crystal methamphetamine, or ice, has suggested expanding random drug testing of private and public sector workers as well as revellers suspected of drug use on Darwin's nightclub strip.

The chairman, Nathan Barrett who's a Territory Government MP, is proposing using hair follicle drug testing which can detect evidence of illicit substance use for up to three months.

Nathan Barrett says the tests are aimed at reducing demand among recreational users in order to disrupt the market for ice in the Top End.

Sara Everingham reports from Darwin.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The chairman of the Northern Territory Government's ice inquiry Nathan Barrett has put forward a proposal of expanding drug testing which he says could be adopted in the Northern Territory and possibly Australia-wide.

NATHAN BARRETT: At the heart of this we've got to ask ourselves the question, do we want to stop this?

SARA EVERINGHAM: Nathan Barrett is concerned about reports of methamphetamine use in the Northern Territory, including in his own electorate.

NATHAN BARRETT: There's people that I know in the community that are very much affected by ice, close personal friends who've had their families really messed up by this particularly awful drug. So yeah, it does cut pretty close to home.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Part of his plan includes expanding hair follicle testing which can detect evidence of illicit drug use for up to three months.

NATHAN BARRETT: I would like to see that become the industry standard. And I would like to see the Federal Government start to subsidise that test so that industries across Australia when they're doing random drug testing on individuals in their companies and use that as their standard drug test, rather than an ordinary urine test ,which is by all accounts much easier to beat.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Nathan Barrett wants to see greater use of the tests in pre-employment medical checks and random drug tests in the workplace.

His proposal includes wider testing of private sector workers as well as expanding it to front-line public sector staff, and possibly to contractors working on government projects.

He suggests people partying on Darwin's nightclub strip could also be tested if police suspect drug use.

NATHAN BARRETT: Straight away I see lots of people jumping up going it's unfair or you're putting an undue cost on it or you're accusing people of this or that. But I think it's good just to start the discussion.

If we want to stop this drug we've got to make a stand and say it's not okay.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Nathan Barrett wants more focus on criminal penalties for traffickers.

But he suggests fines may be preferable to criminal charges for people with positive drug tests. He says the money could be used to help addicts. His aim is to reduce the recreational use of ice.

NATHAN BARRETT: If we can change the behaviour of that side of the equation I think that we'll see a big change in the drug market and we can disrupt that drug market.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Nathan Barrett acknowledges there's no hard data on the extent of ice use in the Northern Territory, but he expects the inquiry to commission a study to find that out.

Associate professor John Fitzgerald from Melbourne University says many industries have found it's important to know the prevalence of drug use to work out whether testing is worth the high cost.

JOHN FITZGERALD: Generally what many industries find is that they actually have to get up to a fairly high percentage of the target population to be tested before they start seeing a preventative impact.

So a lot of the safety critical industries, like airlines and heavy machinery, you basically have to get up around 60 to 70 per cent of the likely people in the likely working environment tested before people start getting the message that, oh, the testing regime is influencing my behaviour.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Associate professor John Fitzgerald from the University of Melbourne ending Sara Everingham's report.