Monday, 7 August 2017

Centrelink Mandatory Drug Testing: Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation calls on the Australian Government to stop playing games with people's lives

In its drive to universally implement the Cashless Debit Card for all welfare recipients, the Abbott Government first targeted remote indigenous communities to ‘trial’ this income management restrict and control scheme. The Turnbull Government then selected certain low-socio economic urban areas for further trials.

Now the Liberal-Nationals federal government intends to extend the reach of this card even further and from 1 July 2018 intends to impose compulsory drug testing on 5,000 new recipients of unemployment benefits – with all who test positive for alcohol or drugs being immediately placed on restricted and controlled payments regardless of their personal circumstances.

All those government MPs and senators cushioned by generous salaries and benefits from life’s vagaries have chosen this group because of the illegality of many of the drugs it will test for, as they think that all Australians will blame those with substance abuse problems and feel comfortable with the idea that they should be punished in some way.

These MPs and senators do not appear to give a toss that in an effort to eventually control the income support payments of all welfare recipients, it will socially profile and discriminate against a specific group of people with little if any positive outcomes flowing from this discrimination.

Because it is admitted that cutting off access to cash may exacerbate mental health issues, increase homelessness and lead the desperate into crime.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 which contains this measure is currently before the federal parliament and, the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee is due to report on this bill on 4 August 2017.

So a call has gone out……….


For 30 years, I served as the head of St Vincent's Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service in Sydney.

I have treated many thousands of patients trying to rebuild their lives in the face of alcohol and drug problems. Many have been victims of sexual abuse, violence from family members, or other devastating trauma – and most are already living on the margins of society.

That's why I'm stunned by the government's plan to strip people with alcohol and drug problems of income support payments.1

Thirty years of experience, backed by research from all over the world, tells me that you can't punish people into recovery. In fact, pushing people into poverty only serves to undermine their chance of recovery – and puts lives at risk.

Over the coming weeks, Parliament will vote on whether to implement mandatory drug testing. Doctors, nurses and allied health workers – determined to protect patients – are speaking out against the changes.

Prime Minister Turnbull assures us that the proposal to strip people of income support payments is "based on love".2 That's a hard thing to swallow given his government's failure to consult with addiction medicine experts and lack of evidence to support the trials.

Mandatory drug testing has already been trialled and abandoned in multiple countries around the world. It's a failed policy that violates our professional commitment to do no harm. This government is forcing doctors to make an impossible choice – to break the law or to hurt our patients.

I've seen with my own eyes how medical treatment of people struggling with severe alcohol and drug problems must be guided by compassionate care and respect for their human rights.

Call on the government to stop playing political games with people's lives:


Dr Alex Wodak

President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation


[1] Drug testing welfare recipients is not about love, Malcolm Turnbull, it's about punishment, The Guardian, 11 May 2017

[2] Federal budget 2017: Turnbull says welfare drug test policy 'based on love', ABC News, 12 May 2017

GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! To unsubscribe from GetUp, please click here.

Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders - past, present and future - and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.

Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.


No comments: