Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra this week. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra this week. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

HEAD TO HEAD: Should dole recipients, MPs be tested?

SO it's okay for a boozed-up politician to fall asleep on the job in Parliament but it's not okay for dole recipients to get Centrelink help if they are fighting drug issues?

Talk about double standards.

Of course politicians should face random tests for drug and alcohol abuse.

They are in positions of power and influence - effectively at the wheel of the nation.

If we expect the drivers of heavy machinery to be tested - for obvious safety reasons, MPs should submit to the same standards.

Peter Slipper sends text messages from his phone during Parliament.
Peter Slipper sends text messages from his phone during Parliament.

You don't have to go back far to find politicians with serious drinking problems affecting their work.

Former Sunshine Coast MP Peter Slipper, who Labor elevated to the high position of Speaker of the House to cling to power, had a widely discussed drinking problem.

In 2010, Mr Slipper was caught on camera snoozing in Parliament during an address by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Liberal MP Peter Slipper closes his eyes during the historic speech in Parliament.
Liberal MP Peter Slipper closes his eyes during the historic speech in Parliament. Contributed

But he's not the only MP who enjoyed too many drinks during the official day.

Queensland Nationals MP Llew O'Brien echoed calls by Senator Jacqui Lambie for drug testing of welfare recipients to be extended to politicians.

Mr O'Brien, a former police officer, told the ABC random breath tests for alcohol were a "no brainer".

"Politicians have a great deal of responsibility particularly when they're in the chamber and they have the protection of parliamentary privilege," he said.

"A politician can say something under parliamentary privilege without fear of prosecution, or defamation, and really, they could say something that could ruin someone's life,'' he told the ABC.

"If you're in a position such as that, I think the community, in this day and age, should be satisfied that you're not impaired by alcohol of drugs while you're in there."

Perhaps, it might be better to take the issue one step further.

Why not ban the serving of alcohol at the member dining room.

After all, how many workplaces these days serve booze at the lunchroom.

As for drug testing welfare recipients, the issue is quite simple.

If your lifestyle is being funded by the taxpayer, it should not include the funding the excessive consumption of alcohol or the abuse of drugs.

I mean, most average workers couldn't afford to smoke these days, let alone buy other more damaging drugs.

- MARK FURLER

Do you support testing of MPs along with welfare recipients?

This poll ended on 19 May 2017.

Current Results

Yes. MPs should face random drug and alcohol tests

72%

No. Only welfare recipients

15%

No. Neither should be tested

12%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The case against drug testing

NO one should have to submit to a drug test unless there is a legitimate reason for them to do so.

While this may not be a hugely popular opinion, in my view it is a sentiment which extends to everyone from people claiming welfare benefits to politicians.

There is a good reason Australian society has thus far largely confined drug testing to workplaces which involve the operation of heavy machinery: it's because imposing these tests on people employed in other sectors is an expensive and unnecessary waste of time which serves no productivity or safety purpose.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull more or less proved the point this week when he bumbled his way through an explanation of why people on the dole should be tested- ending with the limp-wristed argument that it was for the benefit of their health.

And while I totally understand the reaction of the public in saying if politicians are going to force Centrelink claimants into taking tests they too should be tested, I think people are being foolishly short-sighted.

I think we are about to see these tests become mandatory in dozens and dozens of workplaces, for no good reason.

If someone is so frequently off their face they can't try and find work they should lose their benefits for that reason.

Similarly companies really shouldn't be spending scant time and resources probing employee's sobriety - if someone is so drug addled they can't do their job this should be apparent in their performance.

Why bring in a system which protects the chain-smoking alcoholic but goes out of its way to punish the long haired bong addict?

Are we seriously suggesting one is less harmful than the other? Or that one has a larger impact on a person's productivity?

When I look at the situation in the US, where even 7-Eleven employees have to submit to tests, I cringe.

Not because I think drug-taking is good, or cool, or even a thing to be condoned but because I see thousands of people being forced to submit to an invasive process without legitimate justification.

There is no safety benefit in testing politicians, or retail workers, or bar-staff, or burger flippers, or lawyers, bank managers for drugs.

And there will be no productivity gain from it.

In any case we already have roadside drug tests - which don't work properly and pick up people with cannabis in their system long after they are under the influence of the drug.

And anyone consuming illegal substances and driving is already risking their licence and in most cases their livelihood, as a result of these tests.

Why increase the budget deficit to prove a point that doesn't need proving?

- LACHLAN THOMPSON
 

News Corp Australia

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