Budget 2008 – binge drinking is it?

I’m a bit of a budget junkie – particularly when a new government is in power. So tonight I watched the whole shebang closely and was struck by one thing in particular: the prevention versus treatment status quo is certainly not under threat.

Just over 3 billion over five years for prevention versus the 10 billion health infrastructure fund (read: hospitals and MRI machines). That 10 billion is in addition to the current health budget which is totally dominated by non-prevention activities. The Rudd government is obsessed by binge drinking and alcopops but there’s not a lot else on offer. Or am I being too cynical?

The ANCD have released the breakdown of specific initiatives:

The 2008–09 Federal Budget revealed the following funding:

National Binge Drinking Strategy

$53.5 million over 4 years to reduce binge drinking and its associated harms around the nation – from existing funding.

‘Alcopops’ Legislative Change

An increase in the excise and excise‑equivalent customs duty rate applying to ‘other excisable beverages not exceeding 10 per cent by volume of alcohol’ from $39.36 per litre of alcohol content to the full strength spirits rate of $66.67 per litre of alcohol content on and from 27 April 2008.

Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health

$49.3 million over 4 years through COAG to improve access to drug and alcohol services – this doubles the previous 2006 COAG commitment – new funding

$14.5 million over 4 years in the Indigenous Tobacco Control Initiative to help tackle high rates of smoking in Indigenous communities – from existing funding

$9.8 million for 22 remote communities to receive support and assistance from a local Aboriginal family and community worker and/or a safe house and a mobile child-protection team based in Darwin will continue to support families in remote communities

$9.5 million for alcohol diversionary activities for young people between 12 and 18 years offering a range of safe and healthy alternatives to drinking and other substance abuse

Additional Funding for the National Tobacco Strategy

$15.0 million over 4 years to help reduce the health problems caused by smoking and to reduce smoking rates among young people – new funding

Illicit Drug Use National Education Strategy – targeting people using methamphetamines

A national education and marketing strategy to encourage ‘ice’ users to quit – from existing funding

Links Between Drug Use & Mental Illness Community Campaign

$9.7 million in savings expected

National Psychostimulants Initiative

$4.0 million in savings expected

RecLink Program

$2.3 million over 4 years to improve the lives and opportunities for Australians suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, social discrimination and homelessness – new funding.

Model Code of Conduct for National Sporting Organisations

$20.1 million over 4 years to implement a model framework and code of conduct for national sporting organisations to address the issue of illicit drug use by athletes – from existing funding.

National Advisory Council on Mental Health

To be established from existing funding

Mental Health Nurses Training Subsidy

$35.0 million over 4 years to increase the number and value of postgraduate mental health nurse and psychology scholarships – new funding.

Night  Patrols

A total of $17.7 million has been allocated for community night patrols over the 2008-2009 financial year. Night patrols to make remote Indigenous communities safer and more secure for families and children will continue as part of the Australian Government’s commitment to implementing the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). The additional funding will enable the continued operation of night patrol services in the 73 communities covered by the NTER.

Australian Federal Police

The AFP will receive funding of $47.0 million to deploy additional sworn members to assist in capacity building and narcotic roles in Afghanistan.

The deployment of 66 additional Australian Federal Police as part of the NTER.

Australian Crime Commission

The Australian Crime Commission will receive a further $4.2 million to continue the work of the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force


Australia’s port security and border protection capabilities will be strengthened by $16.0 million over the next four years to increase its container examination capacity at four key regional seaports. Funding will be provided to assist in the identification and interception of illegal and potentially dangerous goods.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts – if you had a 21 billion surplus, what would you spend it on?

4 thoughts on “Budget 2008 – binge drinking is it?

  1. Gayle Stannard


    I agree more money should be spent of prevention and education. Also on more flexible modes of rehabilitation, such as day rehabs, in school hours for parents and in the eveings for those who work. People who live in the outlying suburbs of Sydney often find the combination of work and travelling times means they can’t make it to counselling appointments in business hours. I have many clients who are forced to cease counselling when they get a job.

    More detoxes would be good. Most have long waiting lists.

    Many years ago I worked for a drug crisis centre where people using illicit drugs could drop in and stay until they could get into detox or rehab. Nothing like this exists any more and if it was resurected it might ease some of the waiting lists for detox.

    All of the above should be better resourced so that these services are culturally senstive and appropriate for various communities. including Aboriginal.


  2. Lora

    I agree with Gayle. Investing into drug rehabs or having the Government support more rehabs would be beneficial. There are MANY that have really long waiting lists and that is discouraging itself. Though one day treatments are not good at all. the addict should definatly stay for a little while to clearly have all toxins out of their system as well as some counselling to heal all of the mental wounds that they may have, just before they leave rehab.



  3. April

    If the government put more money into rehabs they would make it impossible for the people that are running them to do their jobs. I think that the government would also take away from the programs that a lot of these places offer because they would say the programs are too expensive. I went to a rehab called Gatehouse Academy and they offer their clients the choice to spend their first three months on a ranch. Most of the addicts choose to stay at the ranch because they get to work with horses and they find it healing and helpful. This is the sort of program that I think the government would try to change if they gave rehabs more money and these programs do a lot of good.

  4. Terry Wright

    If the government was serious, it would re-evaluate our drug policy and change to a realistic, evidence based strategy removing law & order as the priority.

    This would save them well over a billion dollars each year, if not several billion. The cost of local policing, AFP special units, prison expenses, court costs and of course the health bill from those who are forced into risky practices.

    Imagine an extra billion or two each year spent on education and REAL SOLUTIONS like fully serviced rehabs with proper medical care, extra pharmacological treatments likes SROM and prescription heroin, world class research facilities, addiction specialists at hospitals, schools etc. Imagine schools where students can freely see their local area addiction specialist to explain the dangers of drug use without the fear of punishment via a Zero Tolerance mindset. Imagine how over the years, drug addiction would be treated as an illness without the stigma currently attached to it. People fearing the worst could seek PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL advice and not some mumbo jumbo from the scary prohibitionist who wants you to beg for forgiveness for being an evil junkie. Imagine the money and lives saved from addicts receiving clean drugs from the government not cut on street with god-knows-what or the overdoses prevented from the unknown strength of drugs made in a caravan by the some crime gang.

    The government could keep their surplus and solve the drug problem! Just imagine…

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