Fake urine Bill stalls, but issue will surely be back

Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey (National) argues in favour of the Synthetic Urine (Prohibition on...
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey (National) argues in favour of the Synthetic Urine (Prohibition on Importation, Supply and Acquisition to Pass a Workplace Drug Test) Bill in Parliament on Wednesday. IMAGE: PARLIAMENT TV
If you have ever ventured the opinion that our politicians are taking the piss, Parliament gave you ample opportunity to repeat that claim on Wednesday.

It was, appropriately enough, a members’ day, as our MPs spent part of their evening debating the merits, or otherwise, of the Synthetic Urine (Prohibition on Importation, Supply and Acquisition to Pass a Workplace Drug Test) Bill.

It turns out that there really are multiple manufacturers providing fake urine — and anatomically correct machinery for dispensing the substance — for anyone willing to splash out on it.

Be warned, if you feel inclined to google this subject you will see things which might haunt you for weeks afterwards.

Unsurprisingly, this Bill was the subject of some hilarity, much of which was introduced by the sponsor of the Bill, National Party MP for Waimakariri Matt Doocey.

Many members’ Bills read like solutions looking for problems, and Mr Doocey strained mightily to dissuade Parliament of that notion.

"Let us be very serious: this is a serious issue in New Zealand," he said seriously, before going on to state that the Drug Detection Agency found, on average, that 1% of its tests revealed the substance in question had not been fermented in someone’s bladder before being supplied to the agency for evaluation.

Which sounds like a very wee number indeed, but that actually amounts to several hundred tests a year of people who have the desperation and the resources to invest in Monkey Whizz and the Screeny Weeny.

And those several hundred rorted tests take on greater significance should the employee in question be, say, a truck driver or forestry worker, industries with a high degree of risk and multiple safety related incidents annually.

"What party in Parliament wants a workplace where there is a legal product to circumvent the drug tests?" Mr Doocey asked.

A reasonable question, but he was not going to get the answer he was after.

As Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean watched on from the Speaker’s chair, several Southern MPs opted to take a call — not one of nature — on the Bill.

Labour list MP Liz Craig, of Invercargill, resisted the siren call of humour and made a sensible speech on workplace safety.

"I think that this Bill and the proposal that it’s doing would put in place a complex regulatory regime in terms of who can import and who can make the products available.

"But what it wouldn’t do, potentially, is address the underlying issues around impairment, and it wouldn’t make it any safer in terms of thinking through how that works."

Dunedin National Party list MP Michael Woodhouse, who earlier was busted in the House checking out the Screeny Weeny on his taxpayer-funded phone — feel free to cite this column if Parliamentary Services rings up to ask about your browsing history — was sure why Labour was against the Bill.

"Dr Liz Craig looked like she was chewing a wasp, and I think we’re seeing a pattern emerging here where the whip’s sitting there, smirking away, because he knows Labour have been told — the backbenchers, the foot soldiers of this arrogant Government, have been told — to oppose every single good idea if it doesn’t come from them, and especially if it came from the National Party."

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary followed in Dr Craig’s footsteps in trying to find a good reason to oppose Mr Doocey’s Bill.

"The assumption is that banning synthetic urine will make workplaces safe, and that is flawed, because banning synthetic urine won’t magically solve the problem," she said.

And with that, the Synthetic Urine Bill was flushed down the dunny, with just National’s 33 votes in favour.

While it made for an entertaining hour in the House, this has all the hallmarks of an issue which will come back to trouble legislators again.

To give one relevant example, synthetic cannabis — one of the things you might want to use ersatz urine to hide the use of — did not seem much of a thing at the time it appeared in shops, but now it is a tightly controlled drug and has been the subject of multiple pieces of legislation.

Mr Doocey’s Bill might not have been perfect, but he did raise an issue which Parliament is unlikely to be able to hold on about forever.

In his closing speech he referred to a November investigation by the navy after drug paraphernalia and an empty box of synthetic urine was found in a locker.

Joseph Mooney
Joseph Mooney
While we might not all be powdering our noses with Monkey Whizz, odds are that someone who is will find themselves caught short having passed a drug test but actually being a drug user.

Should that person go on to kill someone at work while impaired, Mr Doocey would be well entitled to cast a slashing glance at his parliamentary colleagues.

Making The Scene

Fellow Allied Press publication Mountain Scene made it to the big house this week.

Local National MP Joseph Mooney brought the paper to the House for a little downtime reading, and to make a point of its front page "Minister-ometer", which is counting how long it has been since Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has visited Queenstown.

David Clark gets the ball rolling on the Commerce Amendment Bill. Photo: Parliament
David Clark. Photo: Parliament
Statistics, Take Two

More numeric humour from Statistics Minister and Dunedin MP David Clark, who popped into to visit the ministry’s Christchurch office this week.

"Aside from meeting some truly lovely staff, I also found out that my birthday is statistically the 140th most popular birthday," Dr Clark said.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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