24: Government drug policy expenditure in Australia -2009/10

Author: Alison Ritter, Ross McLeod, Marian Shanahan

Resource Type: Monographs

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In responding to illicit drugs, Australian governments expend resources in providing proactive responses, such as drug treatment or policing of drug-crimes. Governments also expend considerable resources on the indirect consequences of drug use, such as emergency department admissions for overdose, or crimes that are committed to obtain income to purchase drugs. This second category of indirect or reactive spending is generally known as the social cost approach. International experts have emphasised that drug budgets should concentrate on the direct, proactive spending by governments, and this approach is taken here.

This study provides a new estimate of Australian governments’ direct or proactive spending on illicit drug policy for 2009/10. Four drug policy domains were examined: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement. Federal and state/territory expenditure estimates were derived for each of the four domains. A top-down approach was adopted wherever possible and consistency in method across the four domains was of central concern.

The results reveal that Australian governments spent approximately $1.7 billion in 2009/10 on illicit drugs. This included programs to prevent or delay the commencement of drug use in young people, drug treatment services including counselling and pharmacotherapy maintenance, harm reduction programs such as the needle syringe program, police detection and arrest in relation to drug crimes and policing the borders of Australia for illegal importation of drugs and their precursors.

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