Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Questions without Notice
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Nash. During the Senate inquiry into the government's welfare reform bill, Professor Alison Ritter of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre told me, 'There is a model that I worked on that developed state-by-state estimates of unmet demand for alcohol and other drugs treatment. Those data are theoretically available. The Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy said we were not able to release those results and they were not to be made available to anyone who requested them.' Professor Ritter advised the direction to not make the information public occurred in 2014 and again about 12 months ago. Professor Ritter went on to state that, in her opinion, the concern from the ministerial council was that it would identify the substantial responsibility that the states and territories and the Commonwealth government needed to start to take in relation to the appalling situation in relation to drug treatment. Will the government table in the Senate the model and the technical manual referred to by Professor Ritter and, if not, why not?
I thank the senator for the question and for some advance notice of it and note her genuine concern for these issues. I have sought advice from the Minister for Health's office. That advice provides that the government is not in a position to table the Drug and Alcohol Clinical Care and Prevention Project model and technical report in the Senate as they were commissioned under the auspices of the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, now replaced by the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum. That council determined not to release the model.
The development of the model and the manual known previously as the Drug and Alcohol Clinical Care and Prevention Project commenced approximately eight years ago and was completed in 2013. Its development was commissioned by the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs. Will the Commonwealth commission an update to the model so that it can be best used to inform governments and organisations about unmet drug and alcohol rehabilitation needs?
My advice is that, at this stage, there has been no decision to update the model. This would be a matter for the MDAF. The Commonwealth does not collect data on unmet demand in the specialist drug and alcohol treatment sector. The majority of the Commonwealth drug and alcohol treatment funding is provided to the primary health networks to commission services. PHNs have carried out extensive community consultations and region based needs assessments to identify the gaps in service delivery and address the needs of their local communities. In relation to state-by-state data for unmet demand, this would need to be requested from the states and territories. The states and territories are primarily responsible for funding and operating drug and alcohol services.
Noting some states and territories are apparently using the model and noting the National Ice Taskforce strategy saw $244 million distributed nationally for drug treatment and there is a current proposal to drug-test welfare recipients, has the model been used to produce data to inform the distribution of this National Ice Action Strategy fund and the drug-testing policy?
I say at the outset as the minister responsible at the time for the National Ice Taskforce strategy, with Minister Michael Keenan, I am very proud of that $244 million that we saw distributed out there for dealing with ice, which is one of the worst scourges we've seen across our country.
The Drug and Alcohol Clinical Care and Prevention Project determines how to allocate different types of services by region. However, local demand for additional services under the National Ice Action Strategy were based on analyses conducted by PHNs because they had the most up-to-date information on those service needs. The model was not used to distribute funding for the National Ice Action Strategy treatment services, and questions about the proposed drug testing of welfare recipients should be referred to those relevant ministers.