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TURNBULL’S FLAWED DRUG TESTING POLICY SHELVED - Media Release, Wednesday 6 December 2017

Tasmanian Senator Lisa Singh has welcomed the Turnbull Government’s decision to shelve its flawed scheme to drug test social security recipients.

Senator Singh has been an outspoken critic of the proposal, previously warning that, ‘stigmatising people with drug addiction rather than providing necessary support through rehabilitation is cruel.’

Senator Singh was a member of the Senate Inquiry investigating the policy that heard overwhelming evidence against the proposed plan from medical professionals, addiction specialists and community organisations. 

‘Whilst I’m pleased the government has back-flipped on this draconian policy, I am very frustrated by their refusal to listen to the experts in the first place,’ said Senator Singh.

‘Drug addiction is a serious health issue, but this is a proposal that every single expert said would not work.

‘Now the Turnbull government has put their damaging policy on hold they should get serious about tackling drug addiction and make a real investment in drug rehabilitation centres.

‘Tasmania is short of drug rehabilitation treatment options.

‘The Turnbull government should focus on helping Tasmanians with drug addiction, not on demonizing them.

‘The government has shown how out of touch it is and how it doesn’t care about the most vulnerable in our community,’ the Senator said.

WEDNESDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2017

MEDIA CONTACT:  TAIMUS WERNER-GIBBINGS  0429 820 344


WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY:

‘It certainly hasn’t got much chance of reducing crime. It does have the potential in some cases to aggravate it [crime].

All my experience tells me that this policy won’t work, and what it will do is create more damage – and the most damage, and most harm to those people who are most vulnerable and most in need of support and protection.’

 -       Mick Palmer, former AFP Commissioner

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‘Existing evidence shows drug testing welfare recipients is not an effective way of identifying those who use drugs and it will not bring about behaviour change. It is an expensive, unreliable and potentially harmful testing regime to find this group of people.’

 -       Dr Adrian Reynolds, Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) & Clinical Director of Tasmanian Health Service’s Alcohol and Drug Service.

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 ‘It’s an absolute disgrace. It fails to recognise that mental illness and drug and alcohol problems nearly always coexist, they’re a health problem and not a lifestyle choice.’

 -       Patrick McGorry, Mental Health Expert

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 ‘International experience shows when you push people to the brink, like removing their welfare payments, things just get worse.

 ‘There will be more crime, more family violence, more distress within society. We can expect at Centrelink offices there will be aggression and violence as people react to this. Had [the government] spoken to the various bodies who work in this area and know about this work, we would have been able to advise them this is not the right way. Pushing people to the brink won't make it better.’

 -       Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo, director of St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne's department of addiction medicine

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‘It’s not evidence-based, it’s not fair, and we stand against it.

 ‘If you discriminate against [welfare recipients], if you impair their return to full functioning by labelling them as a drug user, then you impair their ability to get their life back on track.

‘It simply won’t work.’

 -       Dr Michael Gannon, Australian Medical Association (AMA)

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‘What it can do is actually make people's social circumstances even more precarious and perhaps tip people into more dangerous ways of living, and even more criminal ways of living if they can't support themselves.’

-       Nadine Ezard, St Vincent's Clinical School

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‘There is no evidence that any of these measures will directly achieve outcomes associated with reductions in alcohol or other drug use or harms, and indeed have the potential to create greater levels of harm, including increased stigma, marginalisation and poverty.’

-       National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre