Roger Cook against drug testing people on welfare

Health Minister Roger Cook with Tom De Souza, a former meth user.
Health Minister Roger Cook with Tom De Souza, a former meth user.

A NATIONAL plan to drug test people receiving welfare is “victim blaming” and doesn’t recognise complex issues addicts have, WA Health Minister Roger Cook says.

Mr Cook today criticised the Federal Government’s proposed trial during the release of the Methamphetamine Action Plan’s (MAP) community consultation report at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH).

“My attitude is that it’s simply victim blaming and it doesn’t recognise the complexities of the issues we confront when it comes to drug addiction,” he said.

“To simply come up with a victim blaming approach of forcing people who are impacted by drugs in relation to their economic situation doesn’t solve the problem and what we need to do is build complex solutions to complex problems.

“Beware of politicians coming to you with simple answers for complex problems.”

Former meth user Tom de Souza, who started taking the drug at 14 years old, disagreed and said although he came from an affluent family, anyway of breaking the cycle of people using was worth it.

“When you’re stuck in this cycle it’s very difficult to take responsibility for yourself,” he said.

“I was sentenced to a drug court program in Fremantle and that helped me because I was being drug tested three times a week.”

The 23-year-old, who spent time in a former state youth remand centre in Murdoch, said he injected himself with meth for about five years before realising he’d eventually end up “dead or in jail” if he continued using.

Mr Cook said the MAP report, compiled in consultation with drug users and their families, workplaces, service providers such as Edmund Rice Centre Mirrabooka and Shalom House, government agencies and peak bodies, was a “confronting” read and was an important part of the State Government’s approach to tackle the “scourge” in society.

He said it would be the basis of how government responded to the “great threat” drugs had on the community, mentioning that the first Urgent Care Clinic (Toxicology) unit had RPH had seen more than 130 patients within its first month, taking pressure off the mainstream emergency department.

MAP Taskforce chairman Ron Alexander, whose own family has been affected by meth use, said the final action plan would be submitted to government later this year.

Read the consultation report, MAP: What the Taskforce heard here.