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ACC staff member caught using drugs prompts call for wider tests

 

The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity has called for more "high risk" public service agencies to consider drug testing after a staff member at a major corruption fighting agency was caught out. 

But Australian Privacy Foundation chairman Roger Clarke said blanket policies to test more public servants would be heading toward a Stalinist state which turned employers into police. 

An ACLEI report published in recent days revealed an Australian Crime Commission employee resigned earlier this year days after the ACC widened its testing program to include all staff and not just those in operational jobs.

The ACC employee walked out of the office when told of a looming test that same afternoon and ACLEI later confirmed the staff member was using recreational drugs.

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The report noted the staff member disagreed with the new testing policy on the basis it should not apply to staff in administrative and non-operational jobs. 

"The officer's decision to hide a history of drug use meant maintaining the deception – the so-called enduring lie," integrity commissioner Philip Moss, who has recently left ACLEI, wrote in the report. 

The report said drug testing could shape an organisation's culture, noting that it was the testing which uncovered the employee's illicit drug use rather than the ACC's stringent vetting processes, which included psychological profiling, and the ACC's "integrity training" which encourages staff to dob in colleagues breaking the law. 

"Consideration should also be given as to whether there are other high-risk Australian Government agencies or programs to which a drug testing program should be introduced," Mr Moss wrote.

"It may be desirable to create a legal framework, whereby a condition of maintaining a security clearance brings with it – at least in particular instances – the obligation to submit to a drug testing program."

Public servants addicted to drugs can be seen as targets by organised crime gang members who want to infiltrate government agencies and gather information. 

ACLEI said there was no indication the investigated ACC officer had organised crime links. 

Dr Clarke from the privacy foundation said public servants like those in broader society could have dozens of peccadilloes other than drugs, such as sexual attraction, which would not be tested. 

He said ACLEI had drawn too long a bow in its recommendation and added drug testing could only be supported when a direct safety link could be drawn.

"We don't want boozed-up pilots," Dr Clarke said. 

The Australian Defence Force introduced random drug testing 11 years ago and Professor Peter Leahy, who was chief of army at the time, said the only backlash to the successful reform came from outside the military. 

The main argument behind the ADF's expanded testing program in 2003 was that personnel could be firing weapons or driving heavy vehicles.

But Professor Leahy, director of the University of Canberra's national security institute, liked ACLEI's idea that testing should be used for people with access to classified information.

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