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#HelpNotHarm: Stand against mandatory drug testing

Dr Alex Wodak AM, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, was stunned by the Turnbull Government's decision to strip people with alcohol and drug problems of income support payments. He has accused the government of putting lives at risk.

Watch the video with Dr Wodak below, then add your name to the campaign.

The Turnbull Government is pursuing radical changes that will endanger people trying to rebuild their lives in the face of alcohol and drug problems.

Healthcare professionals are denouncing the move as seriously out of step with clinical evidence, international best practice and their commitment to do no harm.

Parliament could vote on these policies as soon as next week – and with the ALP and most of the Senate crossbench yet to declare a position, there's a very real chance they will pass.

Will you join with doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to call on Parliament to stop playing political games with people's lives?
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, Opposition Leader Shorten 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.