Medical professionals, addiction specialists and community organisations are urging federal politicians to reject a Turnbull government plan to drug test welfare recipients.
A Senate inquiry will hold a public hearing in Sydney on Wednesday into two welfare bills before parliament.
The drug tests – along with the removal of exemptions for welfare obligations based on drug and alcohol dependence and changes to reasonable excuses – are among the most controversial measures.
More than 1000 doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals have signed an open letter to parliament, fearing the changes will punish people with alcohol and drug problems and push them further into the margins.
Senators will also investigate plans to make migrants wait up to 15 years before qualifying for aged or disability pensions, and cut off pension supplements to people after six weeks overseas.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which will be among those to front the inquiry, has described the three measures as “at best ineffective and at worst directly harmful.”
The college, which represents more than 23,000 medical specialists across Australia and New Zealand, believes the policy will prove a waste of resources, money and opportunity.
“We are concerned that the measures would in fact cause considerable harm to a highly vulnerable population and merely add to the already long queue of people waiting to access treatment,” its written submission said.
These concerns were echoed by St Vincent’s Health Australia, a major provider of drug and alcohol treatment and withdrawal services in Sydney and Melbourne.
St Vincent’s fears the measures will increase the stigma…
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