‘Probably no reason’: Gunner rules out drug testing NT public servants

by | Sep 21, 2020 | NT Politics | 2 comments

Chief Minister Michael Gunner says there is “probably no reason” to drug test NT public servants amid calls for police to be tested, following the arrest of two officers over the weekend for alleged cocaine use.

Mr Gunner said the issue of drug testing bureaucrats and politicians is not on the table, despite some members of the public and police calling for it.

“There’s a significant amount of expense and process for a workforce where there is probably no reason,” he told Mix 104.9 Monday morning.

“What would be my public justification to an AO4 working behind a desk somewhere that I’m going to drug test you now? I don’t think the expense of that stacks up.”

He added that he couldn’t think of a reason for testing a public servant outside of the possible use of heavy machinery.

“I don’t think that’s a common workplace condition for any of workplaces apart from operating heavy machinery,” Mr Gunner said. “There has to be a reason for why you’re doing it. With police, obviously because they’re in charge of the justice system, there is some sense as to why you would test there.”

Discussions between the NT Police and the Police Association to bring in random drug-testing for NT police officers are ongoing and started before the arrests on Friday night. Two officers, 43-year-old man and 28-year-old woman, both officers of Darwin Command, were charged with drug offences and suspended without pay.

The NT is the only jurisdiction not to randomly test police officers. Under the NT rules, an officer would first have to commit an offence before being tested.

Mr Gunner said he supports changing the rules to permit drug-testing of officers and would legislate it if necessary.

“I think this is quite reasonable (negotiations) happening between the police commissioner and the police association,” he said.

“We’re happy to support what the police commissioner and the police association negotiate. If that required legislated change, we would do that. But my understanding is it could just be negotiated as part of workplace conditions.

“Other states and territories are doing it, (so) as opposed to isolating ours, it’s more about how do we put (testing) in place here.

“I’m not aware of this being a wide-spread issue … I genuinely believe that this alleged incident doesn’t reflect on the police force at large.”

Police Association president Paul McCue said on Sunday that talks were progressing and had been ongoing for “years”.

Some officers the NT Independent spoke with following the arrests indicated that drug use amongst NT police officers was rare and welcomed the possible move to random testing, but called for others to undergo the same process.

“Personally I’ve got no issues with getting tested, but it should really be everybody,” one officer said.

“Are ambulance and fireys going to do it? Are the members of parliament going to do it?”

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