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Statutes Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving) Bill – committee stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Whilst those seeking to assist the minister are organising themselves I will advise the chamber that from the Liberal Party’s perspective there have been two sets of amendments: one by the Hon. Kelly Vincent and another by the honourable Minister for Police. I have a number of questions or queries arising from the minister’s summing-up at the second reading that I will raise at clause 1.

However, I am minded that I may well seek to report progress at clause 1 to give an opportunity to the Liberal Party members to consider the government’s amendments which they have only seen today. I do not know if any other honourable member wishes to comment on that, otherwise I will proceed to some of the issues arising from the honourable minister’s second reading summing-up.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I am more than happy to accommodate the Hon. Andrew McLachlan’s questions and hopefully we are in a position to be able to answer them speedily today. The government is very keen to progress this as far as possible, notwithstanding that I am conscious of the fact that the government submitted an amendment recently. That is, though, very much in response to some of the opposition amendments themselves and are not particularly complex.

I am more than happy to try to answer the honourable member’s questions, along with any other members’ questions for that matter, but the government is very keen to seek to progress this as far as we reasonably can today in the committee stage and would desire the indulgence of the chamber to go further than clause 1.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I thank the honourable minister and his staff for a comprehensive summing-up of the second reading. There were two matters that the minister indicated he would seek further information about and I ask if that is now available. There was a reference to seeking advice from Forensic Science SA on its procedures, which you undertook to provide to me, and also, near the end of the second reading summing-up as transcribed by Hansard, you said:

I note the Hon. Mr McLachlan has asked for figures on geographical areas in which drivers have been caught drug driving. I am seeking these figures and will provide them to the member once they are received. We will also seek advice from the courts on conviction data and update the member.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I am advised that I can provide the following information to the honourable member. I am advised that Forensic Science SA has provided the following information on their procedures. Case receipt officers receiving oral fluid samples at Forensic Science SA are trained to follow specific protocols to ensure that every sample accepted for analysis meets stringent requirements.

The officers ensure that samples and accompanying paperwork are correctly labelled with unique identifiers and donors’ details, and that samples are appropriately sealed and chain of custody is maintained. These protocols are outlined in controlled documentation readily accessible to staff. Once samples are accepted, they are directly transferred to a secure freezer where they are kept until analysed by a qualified analyst. At any time from sample receipt to the time of sample dispatch or disposal, the identification, appropriate storage conditions, preservation of integrity and security are maintained.

The methodology and reporting of results used at Forensic Science SA is a validated procedure and is accredited against international standards. The technique unequivocally identifies the presence or absence of a prescribed drug. Mandatory peer reviews are performed throughout the analytical process.

During my reply speech, I provided the council with statistics on the number of drug-driving detections in the five-year period from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2016. As requested, SAPOL has now provided a breakdown of these detections in geographical areas. I am advised of the following numbers: the Barossa LSA, 999 detections; the Eastern Adelaide LSA, 1,582; the Elizabeth LSA, 2,799; the Eyre and Western LSA, 1,083; the Far North LSA, 843; the Hills Fleurieu LSA, 1,593; the Holden Hill LSA, 2,411; the Limestone Coast LSA, 1,335; the Murray Mallee LSA, 1,722; the South Coast LSA, 1,971; the Sturt LSA, 2,212; the Western Adelaide LSA, 3,388; the Yorke Mid North LSA, 1,615; and 82 are unknown. That is a total of 23,605.

I also sought information from the Courts Administration Authority on the number of drug-driving convictions. The courts have advised that they hold data for the past five years only. Between 1 July 2012 and 31 December 2016, there were 7,418 charges laid in relation to section 47BA and section 47 of the Road Traffic Act. Of those 7,418 charges, there were 6,806 recorded as a conviction, and there were another 356 charges that may have resulted in a conviction but were recorded as either consolidated with another court case or transferred to another court, remanded or sentenced. It must be noted that a section 47BA offence of driving with a prescribed drug in oral fluid or blood is expiable for a first offence in accordance with section 47BA(6) and (7) of the act.

Hopefully that addresses, I think rather comprehensively, the honourable member’s questions. I am also able to inform the honourable member that I have recently been provided with a written letter that will provide him with that detail, which I am happy to sign as soon as possible.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I thank the minister for that response, and I will look forward to receiving the letter and reading it into Hansard. I note the minister said, in response to my question in relation to interstate data, that the primary focus is on South Australia. To some extent, that is fair. The reason I asked that question was to try to understand the experience interstate or try to understand a benchmark for how we are going to define success for these measures.

If they are not successful and the stick or the punishment is not working, then we are going to have to potentially spend more money on community education, and in my view there is a balance between the two. I do not ask just to hold up the debate. In developing the policy, has there been regard to the interstate experience? Can the minister enlighten the chamber? Have there been dramatic reductions because of the introduction of their initiatives that we are effecting here, which are increasing the penalty and specifically focusing on drug driving?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I can inform the chamber that naturally, in the development of this legislation, the government, I am advised, did contemplate what other jurisdictions are doing in respect of their penalty regimes. In some instances, this brings South Australia in line with what other jurisdictions are doing. I am not in a position to provide the honourable member with any sort of empirical evidence in terms of what has happened statistically regarding drug driving incidence as a result of those changes interstate.

However, what I can say is that we know anecdotally that getting the appropriate penalty in place does send the right message to the community about what behaviour is tolerated and what is not. Particularly in the case of repeat offenders, there is an equally important need to ensure that the licence of those people who have a propensity to regularly do the wrong thing is withheld, not just as an issue around deterrence to other members of the community but also to protect members of the community from those individuals who seek to do the wrong thing on a repeated basis.

Withholding their licence forms an impediment to that individual who would be a repeat offender in getting behind the wheel of a car. There is not just a deterrence element to this but also a protection of the community element which, I would suggest, should be a significant factor in the contemplation of members of the chamber when they cast their vote on this.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I thank the minister for that answer. As the minister knows, the Liberal Party is not seeking to amend the structure of the bill or the penalty. In a future time when the chamber reflects on a bill like this, possibly it is going to be the case that the politics of the day are, ‘Well, the penalties need to go up,’ and there is always this circular debate of how much the Motor Accident Commission should have spent or not spent on advertising and what is the most effective. I think that is probably as far as we can take that. In the second reading summing-up, the minister said:

Further to that, research in South Australia has found that increased penalties and the risk of being caught motivate people to change behaviour.

I am not contesting that statement, but I am interested in what research was relied upon for that statement to be given to the chamber.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I have been advised that some of those remarks were based on research that was conducted by the Motor Accident Commission.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Whilst I do not want to unnecessarily delay the debate, I wonder if the minister could give an undertaking that he could supply my office with the research? It is not contingent upon the passage of this bill, but I would be interested in the actual research that has been relied upon.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: If there is documented research that is published that speaks to the question the Hon. Mr McLachlan has, I am more than happy to provide him with a copy of that, if it is practicable to do so.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Thank you, minister, I accept the undertaking. The minister may well appreciate that these issues do not go away in the parliament, they tend to be revisited, so it will not go to waste. I am sure I will be referring to it with the minister on future occasions. It is important to get on the record what the foundations of these sorts of initiatives are so that in the future—and that is the motivation for my questioning—we can reflect and see whether we are taking the right approach for reducing, and one day the dream of having, driving without being influenced by drugs or alcohol.

Does the minister have any information in relation to the intended MAC campaign, as in spend and duration? I appreciate that they may well be awaiting the passage of this bill, but can the minister give an indication of what MAC’s actual intention is? Is it this year, or possibly next, and what is the nature of the campaign?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: My advice is that it is likely to be an updated version of the MAC campaign that is already in place but will probably add an element in terms of what the new penalties are. I have not received any advice as to what the prescribed spend is on this particular issue or what has been forecast. Indeed, as the Hon. Mr McLachlan said in his question, that, of course, is contingent upon the passage of the bill. I think it is a question of: we have to walk before we can run. We have to get the bill passed first and then we will start planning things from there. I understand that MAC does intend to run a campaign if, indeed, this legislation passes.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Thank you, minister. I note the minister’s comments in relation to the Motor Accident Commission uses a third-party research agency to evaluate the campaign against its objectives. If I understand that correctly, the Motor Accident Commission would be assessing, as it would any campaign, like a corporate entity, the degree of awareness by surveys—I am wondering whether the minister can assist me with that—whereas, as a parliament, we would be interested in that, but ultimately our measure of success will be in addition to that. People being aware would be a reduction in primary testing and conviction. I would be interested in the minister’s comments on that.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Yes, the honourable member is right, MAC does substantial research in and around its campaigns, particularly the substantial ones, to ascertain whether or not the campaigns have had cut-through with the target audience in terms of its messaging. Naturally, the honourable member will appreciate that this is not always a particularly exact science, but indeed there are ways to test this, and MAC does that on a regular basis. Through MAC’s processes, before a substantial spend has taken place (particularly a spend of a campaign that has already occurred previously), as road safety minister I ask questions of MAC to satisfy myself that campaigns are getting the traction they are intended to have before we go spending taxpayer dollars on them. I think that is a reasonable position to have.

The honourable member is right to say that a test of success of any legislative change in this area could be a reduction in the number of people caught drug driving. However, there would be other tests that could equally be applied, as well. That would simply be one measure. Of course, what would be difficult for the parliament or for any agency to ascertain is the number of offences that have not taken place as a result of the protection or deterrence element of the legislation passing. I would argue that this is a case of no harm done, but very much potentially being of benefit to the public by adjusting the offence’s scale in this area, particularly around this issue of repeat offences, as I said earlier.

Withholding a licence from someone who is a repeat offender in this area mitigates the likelihood of them getting behind the wheel of a car again and reoffending. Of course, we cannot guarantee that because we know, in reality, that some people who have had their licence taken away still do elect to get behind the wheel of a car and offend accordingly. Nevertheless, it does create an opportunity for a pause of thought in the mind of someone who does not have their licence before they get behind the wheel of a car. So, there is a range of variables that needs to be taken into account when assessing the success of this bill.

The honourable member refers to one measure that could be looked at, but I want to make it clear that there are a number of variables that are inputs into what happens to drug-driving statistics, apart from this legislation itself. Education campaigns is one of them, also what is happening to drug consumption in the community generally, a rising population and a rising number of people getting access to licences. There is a range of different variables that could impact on what is happening to drug-driving statistics, generally. This is one of them, but it is one that is within our control and is worth addressing.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I thank the minister. Moving on to another topic, the minister has explained why three specific drugs have been targeted by the roadside test. I am interested, if at a future date the governor of the day should choose a fourth or fifth drug, whether the roadside test can accommodate that.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: My advice is that the apparatus currently deployed by SAPOL only has the ability to test for those three drugs. Naturally, the government may revisit that, whether it be revisiting it through the legislation or revisiting it through the potential tools and equipment that are available to SAPOL. However, as it stands, the testing device that is deployed by SAPOL at the moment only has the capacity to test for those three drugs.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: In the second reading summing up you set out, in response to a question, what would happen if you have a positive drug test at the roadside. SAPOL officers will issue a direction in writing and then there is a direction that you should not drive for a set period of time, depending on what is in your system. I would like some clarity around a situation in which the person has obeyed the direction and can establish that they had no other drugs in their system—they had not taken a subsequent drug—but then fails a further test. What is the situation there in respect to the law?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I just wanted to confer with the officer from SAPOL, and my suspicion is right. The direction not to drive is not an implicit instruction that somehow the drugs can be out of the system during that period. It is a direction not to drive. If someone follows that direction and then subsequently gets behind the wheel of a car again—whether or not they have taken any more illicit substances is irrelevant—and then tests positive, then they test positive again and they have breached the law again. The instruction not to drive should not be taken by the individual as somehow being a green light to drive after that instruction has expired.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Thank you, minister. I anticipated that answer. I just wanted it for my own clarity and for the benefit of Hansard.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Your own clarity? Just in case?

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: My own clarity, just in case. I do not profess perfection, not in the chamber at least, anyway. It is coming to an end, from my perspective, but I still have it in my mind to seek to report progress in respect of the amendments. Can the minister advise what the current wait times are for Forensic Science SA to return the laboratory analysis results for oral fluid samples?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I am advised that it is two weeks.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Can the minister advise how many people have passed the drug dependency test but then reoffended? In other words, can the minister advise how many offenders have committed third and subsequent offences?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I can undertake to try to get that number for the Hon. Mr McLachlan. Are there any other questions the Hon. Mr McLachlan is sitting on here? This is an important piece of legislation that has public safety at its heart and that the government is keen to get passed. Notwithstanding the honourable member’s diligent exercise in trying to make sure he is developing an informed view, I am just a bit concerned that if the answer is not going to somehow inform the way the opposition is going to vote on the issue, we may be just delaying the process unnecessarily.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I will be at some point moving to report progress. I know that some other members have some questions. That was my last question at this moment in time. I would say to the minister that it is important in public policy debate, particularly with bills like this that will be revisited at some point in time, that the considerations of the chamber are on Hansard.

I can give the minister some advice, as a newer member from a slightly older member, that it is critical to get these things on Hansard before they are lost in time, and that the crystallisation of the debate allows mature reflection in subsequent revisiting of the bill. So, I do not ask lightly. It also informs the Liberal opposition and other members of the chamber about their own policy positions in respect of these bills. That was my last question for the moment.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: My question of the minister relates to the process that is gone through after someone has lost their licence for drink or drug driving. So that I have it crystal clear: let us say a person has been disqualified from driving for a period of, say, 12 months. Under the existing law, and even under the new amending bill, you are not going to get your licence back until you have satisfied the registrar that you are not dependent on alcohol or drugs.

So, my first question is: once the person has lost their licence, with what assistance does the state provide people in order to prepare for or get ready for that time in 12 months’ time when they will go and ask for their licence back again? What help do you give them? Where do you send them, what free services are available and what mechanism exists to help people pass the test by either convincing the assessor that they are not dependent or, preferably, no longer being dependent? What help do you give them?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: The government, obviously, has a range of services that it provides through Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (that is a separate agency that is not present here today). Of course, I appreciate and understand the intent of the honourable member’s question, but it is not the job of police or DPTI to provide drug and alcohol services—that is done by other government agencies, mainly DASSA, which has a range of services in place for people who suffer from substantial addictions.

Similarly, there are plenty of non-government organisations out in the community that seek to assist people who are suffering from an addiction. Of course, addictions occur at very different levels. Some people suffer more severe addictions and can often find themselves in residential rehabilitation facilities like the Woodshed, which is a state government service, but then there are lower-level addictions, and a lot of those people get access to services in non-government organisations.

But, to be perfectly honest in answer directly to your question: no, when someone commits a drug-driving offence we do not have SAPOL taking that person by the hand and providing them with services to come clean. We require that person to come clean and pass a drug dependency assessment before they can get their licence back. The exercise of taking someone’s licence away is principally an exercise in protecting members of the community from people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When someone gets behind the wheel of a car and they are under the influence, they put other road users at risk. They literally do jeopardise the lives of others. That is one of the principal objectives here.

I appreciate—and I am just going to ad-lib it for a moment—the tone of the question or one of the intents behind the question is: why does the government not use a person committing a drug‑driving offence as an opportunity to see that they get rid of their addiction? That is a question that is utterly justified. It is something that I explored aggressively in putting this legislation together.

I think the Hon. Mr Darley might be interested in this particular point. I was very keen to pursue a legislative change that would see to mandatory treatment of people, particularly if they demonstrated as a repeat offender, because if they were a repeat offender you could reasonably assume that they might be suffering from an addiction as distinct from getting caught from something that is more to do with recreational use.

All of the advice that was given to me—and I had some pretty robust meetings with agencies about this—is that you cannot use mandated treatment with much effect. There is very little evidence out there that suggests that when you mandate someone to have a form of treatment it delivers a result. Overwhelmingly, all of the evidence suggests that people being able to relinquish themselves of an addiction more often than not occurs when someone has elected to make a decision to get over their addiction.

Once they do that, once they make that decision and get access to appropriate help, the prospect of success, of relieving themselves of that addiction, dramatically increases. But if the state seeks to impose mandatory treatment as a form of punishment, or otherwise, then the prospect of success dramatically reduces. Hence, a decision was made, reluctantly—I aggressively asked because I thought it made sense—to not include provisions along those lines in the bill but instead to focus on the dependency assessment as a protective measure.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I thank the minister very much for his very thoughtful answer. It is clear from his answer that he appreciates the dilemma. He hit the nail on the head. My question goes to the fact that here we have an opportunity; here we have a person who has come to the attention of authorities who may or may not have a problem.

It is probably not the time now to debate the merits or otherwise of compulsory versus voluntary treatment, but I accept what the minister is saying, that there is a wealth of evidence that people need to want to be helped before they can be helped. I understand that. Even if I rephrase the question at a fairly pedestrian level: when you have lost your licence, is it someone’s responsibility, whether it is the police or DPTI, to give the person a brochure to say, ‘You’ve lost your licence. This is the process you’re going to have go through to get it back. Here are the treatment options. Here are things that are free and provided by the state. Here are some private options you might want to consider’?

I am not going to say I entirely agree, because there is a silo approach here, but if we are looking at road safety, and the police and DPTI do not see themselves as being at the front line of drug rehabilitation or helping people to get over alcohol addiction, then it seems to me that a person brought before the attention of the authorities does provide a great opportunity for some level of intervention. I am not talking about compulsion necessarily but just pointing them in a direction they might want to go. You are holding something over them. You have something they want back—their licence.

At some point they have to realise they are not going to get that licence back unless they change. I guess the question is: is there any literature, information or advice that authorities can give people that might help them to not become dependent or addicted and therefore to get their licence back?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I asked this question of myself earlier in the context of a question asked by the Hon. Mr McLachlan. When a person is in the lead-up to having to go through a drug dependency assessment, they are written to by either the Registrar of Motor Vehicles or the delegate, outlining the process they have to follow in order to comply with the drug dependency assessment. They are not, as it stands, provided with a brochure referring them to any treatment services or making them aware of what is available. I am more than happy to undertake to see that that is addressed. I do not think doing that via legislation is the appropriate way to do it.

However, upon hearing that information, literally in the last 15 minutes, I am more than happy to undertake to use my authority as minister to see to it that some sort of information or brochure is made available with this correspondence that is sent to that person, saying, ‘You are going to have to submit to a drug dependency assessment. Here are some services that you should perhaps familiarise yourself with in order to ensure that you pass that assessment’—if you are suffering from an addiction.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Again, I thank the minister for his answer. I do not want to pursue this too much further but I will perhaps invite the minister to take some questions on notice. Certainly, we had a briefing and it was explained to us how the assessment process occurred and I think it would be good to get some of that on the record.

I am interested in an explanation of the mechanics of how the assessment is arranged. You have just said that the person gets sent a letter. What sort of waiting period is there? Might someone who has had their licence disqualified for, say, 12 months, end up having to wait 18 months because they cannot get an appointment at the assessment clinic, for example—if that is the case? What does it cost to get the assessment done? Also, what is the nature of the assessment?

I am no expert in this field but I would expect that there are two sides to it, perhaps a physical side and then a social side. The physical side is someone who comes in with perpetually bleary eyes and they are shaking with delirium tremens—yes, that might be an indicator. Socially, I expect they ask questions such as, ‘Have you had a drink today? Can you get through a day without a drink?’ Again, we are talking about professional expertise.

I recently saw a poster on a wall of an old Carlton United advertisement from the 1890s, which states, ‘I allus has wan at eleven’, and it was a bloke with a bushy beard who always has a beer every day at 11 o’clock. Is he dependent on alcohol? Does the quantity of his consumption—perhaps one beer at 11 o’clock every day—lead to an inability to drive? Would he be 0.05? Probably not.

Is there any information the minister can put on the record about the nature of the assessment, whether it is physical or social? I am not looking for the minister to put information on the record that would become a coaching manual, telling people how to answer questions that guarantee you are going to get your licence back, but I would be interested in a bit more information about how that process works.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: The dependency assessments are currently conducted by the Corporate Health Group, which is approved by the Minister for Health. They have a team of medical practitioners, qualified psychologists and nurses who conduct drug and alcohol dependency assessments so that the registrar can determine if people are fit to drive. Training was provided to the Corporate Health Group by Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia specialists, with ongoing training to Corporate Health Group’s clinicians by their addiction medicine specialists.

The assessments investigate both the physical and psychological symptoms of alcohol or drug dependency. Blood samples and a urine drug analysis are undertaken for a drug dependency assessment. The mental health symptoms of dependence are assessed using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is a widely accepted guideline for the diagnosis of mental health disorders and is produced by the American Psychiatric Association. It is used widely in Australia for diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders.

If the assessment determines that there is a dependence on alcohol or drugs, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles is then informed. The registrar then notifies the driver accordingly, and the Corporate Health Group refers all clients who are assessed as dependent on either alcohol or drugs to DASSA as a matter of course.

That is a step that occurs after dependency has been determined, which I suspect is appropriate. Notwithstanding what I said earlier, once an initial offence has occurred, or in the lead-up to a drug dependency assessment occurring, I think we should be providing access to information about services that are available. Again, I will undertake to see if we can do that.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I can see how that system works. If the person receives a letter stating, ‘You attended your assessment; you failed,’ for want of a better word, or have not passed, or, rather more clinically, ‘We have deemed that you are still dependent on drugs or alcohol,’ the person knows that they are wasting their time applying to get their licence back because the registrar is legally obliged not to give them their licence back unless they have a more positive report from the assessment.

Again, back on the mechanics, do they get another letter stating, ‘Book in again. Have another go’? In how long—six months, a year? I am trying to work out how this works mechanically. How does the person ever get their licence back if they fail that first assessment? Do they just voluntarily ring up and say, ‘It was a bad week last week, but I am better now and I will be better into the future. Can I come back for another assessment?’ How does that process work? In regard to the money, my understanding is that the person has to pay over $400 per assessment. Could you explain how that works?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: My advice is that it is $450, and it is four to six weeks before you can get in. The letter is sent out six months in advance of that, so you get six months’ notice that you need to get your dependency assessment, and then you have four to six weeks to get in, which is more than enough time to accommodate that. If you fail, you cannot get back in for another six months, which I must say is utterly logical. If someone is deemed to be dependent on drugs or alcohol, it seems somewhat unlikely that within a week, to use your example, that dependency would conclude.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I do not have any further questions, but I want to make an observation on what the Hon. Andrew McLachlan said, which was that he was inclined to report progress fairly soon before we get to the government amendments that were tabled today. For the benefit of the chamber, whilst I do not want to unduly delay this bill, I am inclined to at least report progress so we can have a good look at the amendments.

The only other thing I would say is I have the permission of the Hon. Kelly Vincent to move her amendment, if she is not available to do it herself. I will prosecute that on her behalf when we get to it, perhaps tomorrow.

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: On clause 1, I have one question of clarification to the minister. When we had our briefing, I noted that the bill removes a requirement to authorise SAPOL officers to conduct drug screening tests. We were advised that there are 687 SAPOL officers authorised to undertake drug screening tests and 362 authorised to conduct oral fluid analysis.

We were also advised that this removal will allow up to 5,000 sworn officers to be trained and able to conduct drug tests. Clearly, then, the measure will increase the number of police officers able to administer drug tests. We are delighted that there will be more police officers able to drug test because Australian Conservatives have argued for some time that we were too restricted in the number of police officers who had been trained, and the government had been very slow in getting more officers trained. My question is: in that briefing—

The Hon. P. Malinauskas: There are so many more officers now, Brokey, since you were around.

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: We could talk about that. We could talk about 313 and how you actually did not want to do 313 even though you promised for two years. I will stand proudly on my record for as long as I live, minister, that I was able to get plenty of additional police officers at a time when your government had financially destroyed the state—destroyed the state (and doing it again), but still had the opportunity of growing police officers. That is for the public record. To get back to the point: is it an arbitrary figure, that 5,000 sworn officers? What was the reason for the 5,000? I would be very happy if we had 6,000 police officers, okay, so why the 5,000?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: As the Hon. Mr Brokenshire would be acutely familiar with, despite his innate desire to be police commissioner himself, this government values—genuinely values—the separation between the responsibilities of the government and the legislature versus the responsibilities of the police commissioner in terms of being able to conduct operational matters in the way that best achieves public safety outcomes.

The object of this legislation is to remove the legislative or regulatory impediment that has existed in the past to giving all SAPOL officers the capacity to conduct these tests, as the honourable member foreshadowed. That is our objective here. Removing it, however, does not automatically mean that every officer within SAPOL will start conducting tests. Naturally, there is an element of training that is required of police officers before they go about conducting drug tests, so just removing the impediment does not instantaneously mean that every police officer will be conducting tests.

Before they go about conducting tests those officers will have to undertake the appropriate training, and naturally the police commissioner should have the flexibility to be able to determine how many people that is. He has to contemplate that in the context of a whole range of different constraints: budgetary constraints, other operational necessities and requirements, so there is a range of things. What we want to do as a government is give the police commissioner the flexibility to be able to make that call.

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: And I 100 per cent agree. I did not close police stations when I was in government, but this government has closed police stations, which should be an operational decision, not a decision of government—when you open them or close them—if you are going to be consistent.

My question and point is: is there going to be a figure? I think it should be left up to the commissioner, but I also believe that the parliament, in embracing the intent of this legislation—and clearly we are all embracing the general intent—would expect the government to support the police commissioner as much as possible within the budget to have as many operational police as possible trained and out there. So, my question is: there is no fixed number, it is going to be left completely to the discretion of the commissioner?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Yes. The answer is that is correct. What is not correct is the preamble from the honourable member suggesting that somehow this government is closing police stations. We have been dramatically increasing the budget of SAPOL.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Hallett Cove, McLaren Vale.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: We have been dramatically increasing the budget of SAPOL. Decisions that have been taken to change operational hours of police stations, or indeed closing a couple, are decisions not made by a politician, but decisions that have been made by the police commissioner. So, before the Hon. Mr Brokenshire goes on these rants he should check his facts. These are operational decisions that have been made by the police commissioner to facilitate an ever-increasing number of police officers who are available to SAPOL—sworn officers—to go out on the beat and do their job.

There is only one party represented in this place that currently has an official policy to override the police commissioner’s discretion on operational matters, and that is the opposition. The opposition is the only party in this place that has a position that it is going to start telling the police commissioner what to do in respect of police station hours. That, I think, is concerning to many members of the South Australian public. Nevertheless, that will be an issue that we prosecute up until the election.

I very much hope that other parties represented in this place, including the newly formed Australian Conservatives, support the government in giving the police commissioner operational discretion, as distinct from the policy position of the alternative government of the state, which is to instruct the police commissioner which officers are behind desks and which officers are out on the beat catching criminals.

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: Further to that, then, I do have to ask this question relevant to the bill. When you actually talk privately to police officers in relation to the main intent of this review into policing that will be announced at some point in the future—and hopefully before that we will get answers to questions on how many fewer inspectors there will be, how many fewer sergeants, and so on and so forth, and what the savings will be—they will tell you that it is no secret whatsoever that the main reason for this transforming and review process of policing at the moment is budget problems.

Therefore, I ask the minister: can he assure the council that, if we pass this legislation, if more buccal swabs are required, as more officers are trained, that the resources as well as the training will be there so that police can randomly drug test the same as they randomly breath test? We all know that the buccal swabs are quite expensive but, if we are actually serious about this, I think the parliament needs to know that the resourcing will be there within reason, not to restrict what we are doing right now with giving a stronger opportunity for drug-driving and drink-driving testing, but particularly with respect to drug driving.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: The government regularly considers requests on behalf of SAPOL regarding resourcing in different areas. The honourable member would be aware that, during the course of the Ice Taskforce, a comprehensive exercise was gone through to see what additional resources SAPOL might desire in order to go about the business of tackling drugs generally in the community. Such requests are received, and they will be considered in the context of the usual budget processes.

Again, without wanting to continue to exacerbate the exchange of banter between the former police minister and myself, it should be noted that the honourable member’s remarks are wrong in saying that the police commissioner’s efforts to reform SAPOL are somehow a consequence of budget cuts. The SAPOL budget is at its highest ever level, at a record $888 million. It is the highest level of the SAPOL budget in history.

We are going to have more active sworn police officers in the police force than at any time in history and certainly a lot more police officers in the police force than was the case when the Hon. Mr Brokenshire was the minister for police. Also, an important statistic that I think is worth noting is that we have more police officers now in South Australia on a per capita basis than in any other state in the commonwealth. That is a record we are pretty proud of and it stands in stark contrast to that of the former police minister.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I have a question in relation to a response of the minister in relation to the operation of the bill. I make a quick comment that the minister’s characterisation of Liberal Party policy and intent is somewhat misdirected and incorrect, but I am not going to descend into the debate that the minister has with the previous police minister because I have not been police minister so I do not necessarily feel I am qualified to enter into those exchanges.

By way of clarification, regarding a response to a query by the Hon. Mr Parnell in relation to the drug dependency test, I understand that you are not allowed to seek another drug dependency assessment for another six months. Is that six-month rule set by the agency doing the assessment, and therefore it is an administrative rule, rather than a legislative or regulatory rule, that is being anticipated?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: My advice is that that is not a six-month requirement that is mandated through regulation or legislation, but rather a policy the Corporate Health Group has in place. I think, as I said earlier, there are probably some good reasons for that.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: If honourable members have no further questions I will move that we report progress, and my reason for doing so is that this will give us the opportunity to consider the amendments of the Hon. Kelly Vincent and the government.

Progress reported; committee to sit again.

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