Labor’s spokesperson for alcohol and other drugs, Stephen Jones, has called on the Turnbull Government to end the funding uncertainty that threatens alcohol and illicit drug treatment services.
This morning the CEO of Illawarra-based alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre Watershed, Will Temple, warned that the future of the service was in jeopardy.
He has seen a 150 per cent increase in people presenting for help over the past four years, including treatment for crystal methamphetamine or “ice” addiction. He is losing experienced staff because he cannot promise them long-term employment.
Stephen Jones said that the federal Coalition’s neglect and mismanagement of drug and alcohol treatment services needed to be urgently addressed.
“Will Temple and his team are doing their best with one arm tied behind their back. The Coalition is cutting almost $800 million from the Health Flexible Funds, which includes funds supporting alcohol and illicit drug rehabilitation and treatment.
“On top of that, services like Watershed were only guaranteed federal funding for this current financial year at the very last minute. That pattern is set to repeat itself, with the Government still refusing to provide long-term funding security.
“As a result Watershed and many others services just like it are having difficulty retaining experienced staff and planning for the future. Will Temple’s team are in the same situation as other workers on the frontline right across Australia and they deserve better.”
Mr Jones said that the Government’s priorities were all wrong.
“The situation in many parts of Australia is acute. The Coalition has found money for a ‘dob in a dealer’ hotline and a $20 million graphic TV ad campaign, yet somehow services like Watershed aren’t important enough to guarantee long-term survival.
“The head of the National Ice Taskforce Ken Lay has said we can't arrest their way out of the ice problem and that rehabilitation is essential.
“But the Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, has said on several occasions that he is entirely focussed on reducing supply through law enforcement efforts. He just doesn’t get it; vulnerable communities need a hand to get on top of drugs like ice.”