There’s a push to breath test politicians in Parliament

There is a push to breath test politicians in Parliament House after two recent incidents involving parliamentarians and alcohol.
breath test politicians in Parliament

There is a push to breath test politicians in Parliament House after two recent incidents involving parliamentarians and alcohol.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has not expressed support for the proposition, saying “common sense should apply”.

Here’s the context.

What has happened?

There have been two incidents in the past fortnight involving videos of National Party politicians being intoxicated.

First, the Daily Mail published a video of Barnaby Joyce drunk on a pavement in Canberra. Joyce said he had mixed alcohol and medication.

Nationals Leader David Littleproud urged Joyce to take time off work.

This morning, Joyce told Sunrise he has given up alcohol for Lent, a period where some Christians abstain from something they enjoy in the lead-up to Easter.

In a separate incident, Deputy Nationals Leader Perin Davey appeared to slur her words during a Senate hearing last week.

Davey admitted to drinking two glasses of wine at a social meeting before the hearing, but denies she was drunk.

She said she is “mortified by how this is being reported”.

“Unfortunately the focus is on my enunciation rather than what I was actually asking about,” she said.

Should politicians be breath tested?

On Melbourne radio station 3AW, Independent MP Zali Steggall suggested random alcohol and drug testing should be adopted, saying: “I’m a little surprised people aren’t self-regulating better… If you are tested, and you have consumed too much, there would be consequences.”

Prime Minister response

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was asked today if there should be an alcohol ban in Parliament. He said: “Well, there is no alcohol in my office… A bit of common sense should apply. People are adults and they should behave responsibly like any adult should.”

‘Work hard, play hard’

In 2021, then-Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins led a review of Federal Parliament’s workplace culture. It found frequent alcohol consumption was part of Parliament’s ‘work hard, play hard’ culture. Jenkins recommended restricting the availability of alcohol in Parliament.

In response to a question about Joyce and Davey’s behaviour, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland told Sky News “a lot has been done” to improve alcohol consumption at Parliament, and that the changes were “producing positive results”.

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