CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Random Drug Tests For Politicians?

Apr 4, 2000

A recent call by Major Brian Watters of the Salvation Army for random drug tests among our public servants has caused quite a reaction. Major Watters, who chairs the Prime Minister’s National Council on Drugs, said that it is possible that some politicians calling for liberalisation of drug policies may be driven by their own drug use.

DrugWatch, a national anti-drug group, supported the proposal, claiming that prevention is the best policy, and drug testing is an important component of such a policy. “It is imperative that any individual involved in legislating, developing and implementing drug policy be completely drug tree,” the group said.

Predictably, civil libertarians and others were quick to criticise the proposal. Of greater interest, however, were the reactions by some politicians. Many seemed to view the suggestion as quite incredulous. But given that such tests are quick and harmless, why the resistance? If our politicians are living drug-free lives, such tests should present no problem. All the talk of “invasion of privacy” is quite beside the point. If an elected representative is using illicit drugs, the public has a right to know. And if he or she is not, they should be quite eager to let this be known.

Just as a chain-smoking politician may be influenced on his/her vote on legislation relating to tobacco, or a porn-viewing politician may be influenced on his/ her vote on legislation relating to X-rated videos, surely a drug-taking politician may be influenced on his/her vote of legislation regarding the drug debate.

Moreover, given that drug-use affects decision making and alertness, what of driving under the influence of drugs? Taxpayers foot the bill for the transport of our politicians. If a politician is involved in an accident as a result of taking drugs, should the taxpayer have to bear the burden?

Our public servants are presumably committed to upholding the laws of the land. If a politician is in fact violating those laws by illicit drug use, the public has very good reasons for being informed about this.

Much has been made of American political candidates revealing past drug use. Voters have a right to know what a potential political leader has done in such areas. If a politician has in the past broken the law, or is presently breaking the law, such knowledge is indeed of importance to the general public.

If our politicians have nothing to hide in this regard, they should be willing to stand up and be counted. Reacting with red herrings like “invasion of privacy” only makes Major Watters’ proposal seem all the more justified.

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One Response to Random Drug Tests For Politicians?

  • Good point Bill! Mine workers already have drug & alcohol testing in their workplaces. (When politicians drive, should they be exempted from RBTs?)

    Also, residents of Queensland’s indigenous communities have Alcohol Management Plans. (Pearson notes this has saved a generation of children from the rivers of grog.) Still, residents have been asking why public servants seem to have little restriction on themselves.

    Let public servants lead by precept AND example. Precept is essential, but it ought to be done “without leaving the other undone”.

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