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Oz MPs 'could be breathalysed'

Major blow for New South Wales politicos

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New South Wales MPs "could be breathalysed before voting" following a series of incidents which have led to suspicions that the state's politicos are sometimes less sober than their jobs demand.

According to the BBC, the idea gained much favour earlier this week when National Party MP Andrew Fraser - who'd earlier enjoyed the NSW Farmers Federation Christmas piss-up - got involved in some heated parliamentary verbals with Labour MP John Aquilinagot. When fellow National Party member Katrina Hodgkinson tried to intervene, Fraser "shoved her away" - an act which subsequently led to his resignation from the front bench.

While NSW National Party leader Andrew Stoner insisted to the Sydney Morning Herald that "he did not know if his colleague was drunk", Oz's Daily Telegraph ran the front page headline "Breath test this mob", backed by an editorial demanding: "If our politicians are drunk on the job, we've a right to know."

The proposed clamp-down has now attracted support from several MPs. NSW Greens MP John Kaye told the Telegraph: "Honestly, if you are going to have breathalysers for people driving cranes you should have breathalysers for people writing laws."

Speaker Richard Torbay also backed the tests, providing they were voluntary. He told the paper: "I think it is important to establish high standards that the community expects."

The Rail, Bus and Tram Union quickly weighed into the debate, saying MPs "should undergo the same tests as its members". Secretary Nick Lewocki explained: "All rail workers are subjected to random drug and alcohol tests, an infringement on their personal lives that they are told is necessary due to the safety-critical nature of their work. But driving the state is every bit as safety-critical, and decisions our politicians make on issues as diverse as health, education and transport policy do affect public lives."

Aficionados of drunken Oz MPs will recall the case of NSW police minister Matt Brown who walked the plank after just three days in the job, having ill-advisedly danced to techno music in "very brief" underwear at a late-night bash at his Parliament House office. ®

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