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Public servants told: keep off grass

Laws will make smoking cannabis legal in the nation’s capital from January. Picture: AP/Richard Vogel

 

A former Australian Public Service commissioner has warned highly paid Canberra bureaucrats should not smoke cannabis ­despite laws making it legal in the nation’s capital from January.

 

John Lloyd said clarification was needed over workplace rules for public servants following the passage of the new ACT laws. He argued that while there were clear expectations in relation to alcohol use, policymakers and bureaucrats needed to understand workplace rules around cannabis use.

 

“It is of concern,” he said. “I think that, yes, there should be some caution in the APS about the impact of this. And I imagine they are thinking about whether they need to issue some advice or clarify what’s expected of employees.”

 

Mr Lloyd, the inaugural Australian Building and Construction Commissioner and APS commissioner from 2014 to 2018, was also alarmed at public servants engaging in drug use in breach of federal law, suggesting it was inappropriate.

 

“There should be clarification that illicit drug taking is wrong,” he said. “It may be breaking commonwealth law and the APS is about upholding the law, administering the law and operating in accordance with the law.

 

“I think it creates some real problems … Therefore, they’ve got to say, there’d be an issue here. If you take it in the ACT you are in breach of commonwealth law and therefore potentially in breach of the public service code or Public Service Act.”

 

On Thursday, Attorney-­General Christian Porter opened the possibility of scuttling the legislation, telling Perth radio that the federal government would review the final copy of the ACT bill to see if it clashed with federal drug laws.

 

The AFP Association has also expressed concern police in Canberra were being “set up to fail” due to the conflict between federal law and the ACT legislation.

 

The Australian Public Service Commission issued a statement saying all “APS employees are ­expected to act in accordance with the APS code of conduct and APS values as set out in the Public Service Act 1999”.

 

“These obligations apply to all APS employees across the country, no matter which state or territory they work in. Some APS employees may also be subject to their own agency-specific drug and alcohol policies.”

 

Former Liberal ACT chief minister Kate Carnell — now the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman — offered a different view from Mr Lloyd, ­arguing the ACT changes were reasonable and employers would need to develop their own policies in relation to cannabis use.

 

“Most employers have policies about people working under the influence of alcohol and the same thing would happen with cannabis. I don’t think we should see it as a different scenario,” Ms Carnell said.

 

She said it was the role of government to “ensure that people are acutely aware of the dangers of the misuse and abuse of cannabis products”, noting those with a “family history of psychosis and mental health issues should be particularly concerned”.

 

“It doesn’t help anybody for people who use cannabis for personal use to end up in the criminal justice system,” Ms Carnell said. “Nobody is a winner in that particular space.”

 

Back from his visit to the US, Scott Morrison said the government was still weighing up the ACT laws, which would allow adults to possess up to 50g of marijuana and grow up to four plants per household.

 

They are due to come into force at the end of January. “The government will look at this issue … there’s ample time for us to do that as a government,” he said.

Originally published here: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/public-servants-toldkeep-off-grass/news-story/7f86af4e9e843400dd10f5d4b6a6ca56

 

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