Plenary

Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 9.00 am – 10.15 am
Location: Leighton Hall (ground floor)
Chair: Professor Ilan Katz, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney
Speaker(s): Professor Alison Ritter, Drug Policy Modelling Program, UNSW Sydney

In 2017 the Federal Government introduced a bill for sweeping reform of Australian social services legislation (the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017). Tucked into this new omnibus Bill were three provisions directed towards people with alcohol and/or drug problems, all of which sought to tighten their eligibility for social welfare payments. After Senate review, the schedule concerned with the ‘drug testing trial’ was removed and the Bill passed (March 2018). Not to be deterred, a new Bill was introduced in February 2018 (the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018), also subject to considerable scrutiny and review by the Senate committee. Passed by the House of Representatives in August 2018, at time of writing (March 2019), it has yet to pass the Senate.

Using analysis of the draft Bills, and the two Senate Committee reviews (which included 63 submissions for the first Bill and 52 submission for the Amendment, along with transcripts of the public hearings), Alison Ritter will analyse the policy discourse.
Contextualised within Australia’s history of ‘moral provisions’ in social security, the normative perspectives (including contractualism, paternalism, and social justice) assumed by the various stakeholders (politicians, advocates, academics, service providers and public servants) will be analysed with a view to understanding the apparent policy stalemate. The normative perspectives represented in the many submissions contrasts with the normative perspective apparent in Parliament. What this says about how our society views people with alcohol and/or other drug problems, and how this intersects with the values inherent within current drug policy will be explored. It is hoped that this may provide lessons for how a polarised policy debate may be reshaped.