Media Release by The Hon Christian Porter MP

Unemployed up to three times more likely to use drugs

The latest research into Australia’s drug and alcohol habits confirms that new approaches need to be tried in order to help people on welfare with drug abuse issues.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings 2016–released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare–shows that unemployed people are over three times more likely to use meth/amphetamines, and 1.5 times more likely to use cannabis, when compared with employed people.

Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, says that the evidence is unequivocal, and further reinforces the need to try new ways of helping people on welfare such as the proposed drug testing trials.

“The data tells us very clearly that unemployed people are much more likely than employed people to use illicit drugs,” Minister Porter said.

“23.6 per cent of job seekers are recent users of illicit drugs, compared to 17.6 per cent of people currently employed.

“This Report is evidence that for too long, not enough has been done to try and deal with the real connection between drug abuse and unemployment.

“This Government’s Drug Testing Trial is focused entirely on helping job seekers overcome drug problems and to receive the help they need to get on a path towards securing a job and building a better future for themselves and their families.

“It is not about penalising or stigmatising people who have a barrier to employment such as drug abuse. We want to help people in this situation. Failure to do so simply leaves people at risk of a cycle of welfare dependency,” Minister Porter said.

Despite the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2013 report showing similar figures, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Human Services, Linda Burney has repeatedly said drug abuse is not a problem within the welfare system.

“I mean, the evidence is very clear that there is not a higher incidence of drug use amongst people that are seeking employment.” – 7.30 Report 23/08/2017

“Well I was horrified at what Minister Porter said just a few moments ago in Question Time, and he was basically saying that welfare recipients are more likely to use ice, I think he was talking about, certainly drugs. There is no evidence of that…” – Sky News 05/09/2017

The 2016 data again shows that she is wrong, and that many people in the welfare system need help and aren’t getting it. While communities are being ripped apart by drugs such as ice, Labor’s alternative approach is to establish a committee which will produce a report that will feed into future policy.

More information on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings 2016 can be found at