Experts join against 'reheated' drug tests


Substance abuse experts from across the country have descended on Canberra to caution federal politicians against drug testing welfare recipients.

Instead, the 40 representatives of peak health and welfare groups are urging MPs and senators to plug existing shortfalls in the drug and alcohol space.

They're calling for an extra $1.2 billion in annual funding in the sector to help 200,000 Australians with addictions.

The Morrison government will on Wednesday reintroduce to parliament legislation to enable the drug testing of 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.

People who test positive for illicit substances would be shunted onto cashless welfare cards, and anyone who fails twice would be offered drug counselling.

The two-year trial would take place across three trial sites.

Labor social services spokeswoman Linda Burney said there was no way the opposition would support the "punitive, unworkable" policy.

With Labor and the Greens opposed to the plan, the government will need support from the Senate crossbench, and experts are pleading with them to reject the proposal.

The group, which includes representatives from St Vincent's Health Australia and rehabilitation service Odyssey House, said hundreds of thousands of people are already struggling to get help.

In many places, treatment options aren't available, or waiting lists are too long.

St Vincent's chief executive Toby Hall said services were unevenly distributed, crisis-oriented and poorly integrated with other programs.

Labor is also opposed to the government's plans to roll out cashless welfare cards nationally, underpinned by separate legislation being introduced on Wednesday.

The cards quarantine 80 per cent of payments so the money can only be spent on essential items.

Ms Burney said the technology should only be expanded on a case-by-case basis, describing the evaluation of existing trials as "quite inadequate".

"If a community has proper consultation and proper consent, and that community wants the cards, then Labor would not stand in the way," she told ABC radio.

"But we do not support a national rollout of this card."

© AAP 2019