Physicians have criticised Social Services Minister Christian Porter for linking the debate on drug testing welfare recipients to child immunisation policies, The Guardian reports.
The conflict between the medical community and the government over the proposal escalated yesterday, with a Senate inquiry due today to deliver its report on the controversial measure.
The report is expected to recommend against proceeding with the drug testing trial, given Labor and the Greens remain strongly opposed.
The legislation’s passage through the Senate remains uncertain. The Nick Xenophon Team was yet to determine its position on the drug testing yesterday.
That party’s votes will be crucial in implementing the drug-testing trial but Senator Xenophon said he was still in negotiations with the government.
The inquiry into the legislation heard almost universal condemnation of the plan, which mandates 5000 welfare recipients be drug tested at three locations across the country.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australian Medical Association have been among the most vocal critics.
Mr Porter criticised the position of the “establishment” medical groups on Monday.
He told Fairfax Media that the medical community had previously been critical of the government’s no jab no pay policy, which has since demonstrated significant success in improving child immunisation.
“Of course, trying new approaches is not always met positively by the establishment used to the established approach,” Mr Porter told Fairfax Media. “The Royal College of Physicians, for example, said that using the welfare system to compel people to vaccinate their kids would not work.”
The college rebuked the minister yesterday. Adrian Reynolds, an addiction specialist with the college, released a statement condemning the linking of the two policies.
“Conflating issues as different as childhood vaccination and addiction confuses two very distinct and very important public health issues,” he said.
“Addressing a problem such as addiction which is complex and deeply connected to many other issues including mental health, trauma and poverty, is very different to mechanisms to encourage people to undertake a single intervention such as an immunisation.”
Key stakeholders, including the Australian Council of Social Service, have expressed concern about the new compliance regime.