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#HelpNotHarm: Stand against mandatory drug testing

Nearly 1000 healthcare professionals have spoken out. And now it's up to us to get their message to the Senate floor!
The Turnbull Government is ignoring the advice of experts and insisting on blundering ahead with its dangerous drug testing scheme.

Every expert medical body in the country has condemned the scheme as seriously out of step with clinical evidence, international best practice and their commitment to do no harm.

While the Coalition is doing its best to avoid the evidence, the Senate crossbench still has the power to block this bill, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that they do.

Over the last few weeks, hundreds of individual health professionals have come together, signing an open letter demanding that our politicians see sense and do the right thing.

Now they need our help to make sure that this message gets to the forefront of the debate, and that our crossbench Senators listen to doctors' orders.
There are three proposed changes to the Social Security Act that will impact people trying to rebuild their lives in the face of alcohol and drug problems. All three measures are based on the false premise that people can be coerced or punished into recovery.

  1. Establishment of a two-year mandatory drug testing trial: Anyone enrolling for Newstart Allowance and jobseekers enrolling for Youth Allowance will be forced to agree to undergo drug testing as a condition of payment. 5,000 people in three selected regions of Australia will then be summoned to Centrelink offices and forced to take a drug test. Anyone who did not agree to be tested would have their income support payments cancelled immediately.

  2. Removal of exemptions for drug or alcohol dependence: Currently, the government provides income support payments to people unable to apply for jobs or do training or study due to their status as someone suffering from severe alcohol or drug dependency. Under changes to the Welfare Reform Bill, the government would cut income support for people with alcohol or other drug dependencies unless they are able to meet prohibitive compliance requirements. The government would also cut support to people incapacitated by sickness or an accident caused by alcohol or other drug issues.

  3. Changes to reasonable excuses: People who fail to comply with government requirements due to their status as someone suffering from alcohol or drug dependency would be offered treatment. If they refuse treatment, and did not comply with government requirements a second time, the government would suspend their income support.
  • A wealth of scientific evidence and clinical experience has proved that people suffering from severe alcohol and drug problems cannot be punished into recovery. Pushing people into poverty will only undermine their chance of recovery.

  • Mandatory drug testing has already been trialled and abandoned in multiple countries around the world – including New Zealand, the UK and some states in the USA. These trials have found that the process is costly, counterproductive and inflicts harm on people who are already suffering.

  • The government failed to consult with addiction medicine specialists over the policies. They have not been given the chance to share their concerns and expertise.

  • Alcohol and drug issues are a serious healthcare problem – not an indication of some sort of personal failing. The policies put forward in the 2017 Budget fail to recognise this fact.

  • If this government genuinely wants to help people struggling with drug and alcohol problems, Parliament should redirect public funding away from harmful, expensive drug testing trials and expand referral pathways to treatment services.


To Prime Minister Turnbull and Honourable Members of the House and Senate:

We call on Parliament to abandon attempts to strip people with alcohol and drug problems of income support payments. Pushing people into poverty only serves to undermine their chance of recovery – and puts lives at risk.

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