Labour defends roadside drug testing legislation

By rnz.co.nz and is republished with permission

Transport Minister Simeon Brown has said new legislation to enable roadside drug testing is on the cards. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

There are growing calls for random roadside drug testing after seven people were killed in crashes over the Easter weekend.

The previous Labour government introduced legislation to allow for roadside drug testing – but Transport Minister Simeon Brown said the legislation was flawed and unworkable – after police could not find a suitable testing device.

Labour spokesperson for police Ginny Andersen told Midday Report the legislation was not unworkable and the government could have implemented testing if they wanted to.

Changes were made to the legislation in August 2023 – to back up the roadside saliva test with a laboratory test.

“That’s what Australia does and that’s best practice to use,” Andersen said.

Labour MP Ginny Andersen

Former police minister Ginny Andersen. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Legislation was being drafted and if the “current government wanted to enact that, they could have done so very quickly”.

It would have been ready to be enforced by August this year.

“I don’t know why they haven’t proceeded with the work that was undertaken back in August last year,” Andersen said.

She said the only technology available was a saliva test which could “throw a false positive”.

“This government’s priorities are very different to ours and it does seem that cost is a prohibitive factor.

“Potentially the cost of those lab tests or the cost of rolling this out nationwide may be one of the reasons why they haven’t acted quicker than they have.”

For now, it was up to Brown and Police Minister Mark Mitchell to front up, she said.

In March, Brown said a new legislation to enable roadside drug testing was on the cards.

Last June, he called the state of roadside drug testing “another abject failure by Labour“.

Instead, the National Party suggested two roadside saliva tests for drug testing – if a driver failed both, then a sample from the second test will be sent to a lab.

It had proposed to fund it by tapping into NZTA’s road safety partnership programme with police.

AA road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen said drivers were losing their lives as a result of risky behaviour.

He hoped the legislation would change this year to allow the use of drug testing devices like in Australia and Europe.

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