In the 2017 Budget, the Turnbull Government announced a suite of changes to our Social Security Act targeting people struggling with alcohol and drug problems. The specific amendments are:

  • Schedule 12: Establishment of a mandatory drug testing trial for people receiving income support
  • Schedule 13: Removal of exemptions for drug or alcohol dependence
  • Schedule 14: Changes to reasonable excuses for not engaging in jobseeker activities
You can read more about these amendments here.

Doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals are voicing concerns about how these changes will impact the medical treatment and rehabilitation of people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, through an Open Letter to Parliament. The letter will be launched to media in late August and published as a full page newspaper ad.

Read the letter below, add your name, and then spread the word among friends and colleagues.

#HELP NOT HARM: An Open Letter from the Front Lines of Addiction

To Prime Minister Turnbull, Opposition Leader Shorten and Honourable Members of the House and Senate:

Doctors, nurses, addiction specialists and health advocates stand shoulder to shoulder, united against the government's plans to punish Australians struggling with severe alcohol and drug problems.

Every day, in our hospitals, clinics, and in the community, we treat people who are trying to rebuild their lives in the face of drug and alcohol problems. The work we do is guided by clinical evidence, compassionate care, respect for human rights and a commitment to do no harm. We were never consulted about the radical changes proposed in the 2017 Budget.

We do not and cannot support policies that will push people suffering from difficult alcohol and drug problems further into the margins.

If we had been consulted, we could have said that people cannot be punished into recovery. Using drug testing to coerce people into treatment treats drug and alcohol problems as a some sort of personal failing – not the serious health problem it is.

Making it harder for people struggling with drug and alcohol problems to access income support will push people who need treatment into poverty, undermining their chance of recovery.

We welcome and support the ambition to connect more people with drug and alcohol problems to treatment and rehabilitation services. But we believe that this should be done in a way that is informed by evidence and respects people's dignity.

If this government genuinely wants to use tax revenue responsibly and help people struggling with drug and alcohol problems, Parliament should take immediate steps to redirect public funding away from harmful and expensive drug testing trials and expand non-punitive referral pathways to treatment services.