Monday, 5 August 2019

Morrison Government intends to go ahead with the drug testing of welfare recipients

"…the bill is not written like a research trial, it's written as policy by stealth…and if this is about introducing new policy, then…it misunderstands the nature of drug problems and drug dependence." [UNSW Professor Lisa Maher, Committee Hansard, 23 April 2018, p.18] 

According to, between January 2017 and and December 2018 there were 5.82 million Australian citizens receiving Newstart Allowance unemployment benefits for all or part of that period.

Based on the New Zealand experience of widespread drug testing, it is highly likely that just one year into any Australian scheme which regularly drug tests Newstart recipients running costs would not be less than $3.27 billion.

When you add those receiving Youth Allowance,  then drug testing and intervention costs would run even higher.

Even the limited trial currently proposed by the Morrison Government would in all probability cost somewhere in the vicinity of $20 million in its first year.

In the health care sector there is almost universal condemnation of the Morrison Government's drug testing bill as being either unworkable in practice as a reliable drug detection scheme or ineffective as a method of medical intervention.

Indeed, it is reported that Clinical Associate Professor Adrian Reynolds, an expert in addiction medicine, has stated that the drug testing trial is 'unlikely to bring about any sustained changes in patients' drug use behaviours and may even be counterproductive.'

Nor does it appear that there is any solid evidence that such a testing regime actually assists unemployed people to either find work or successfully access treatment. 

Given how many drug or alcohol dependent individuals currently cannot get a timely appointment or find a inpatient bed in the est. 952 publicly funded drug & alcohol agencies across Australia and the fact that the majority of both private and publicly funded agencies are in large metropolitan areasthis lack of evidence comes as no surprise.

Here is just one submission made to the Senate Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018 in April 2018 by the peak medical practitioners organisation.

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