So far there are only five submissions to a Senate committee inquiring into the Abbott Government’s National Commission of Audit – with this Friday (January 31) being the deadline.

The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) – the national peak body for the alcohol and other drugs sector for nearly 50 years – has put in a heartfelt request to present to the committee on the impact of its unexpected defunding last November.

Its submission (available here) states:

“Defunding has essentially destroyed the organisation and with it, its representative role in the alcohol and other drugs sector. The tens of thousands of workers in the sector, ranging from researchers and academics, community organisations, treatment specialists through to carers and volunteers in rural and remote Australia are now denied a national voice…

ADCA believes that its situation should be part of the review of government expenditure by the Commission of Audit. ADCA further suggests that its funding should be restored until at least after completion of the audit, so that years of expertise and corporate knowledge are not lost…

As an indication of how little consultation or communication has been entered into – even within Government – ADCA was astounded to receive a call in early January from the office of a Liberal backbencher, asking whether the dates for DAW 2014 (Drug Action Week) had been decided…

The government’s decision will ultimately prove to be shortsighted and ill-considered. There is no clearer example of the need for an organisation like ADCA than the current situation in which Australia finds itself – a nation wallowing in alcohol with a failure of leadership to address the critical issues of price, accessibility and advertising of alcohol products.

Governments in turn rely on the threat of defunding – as has happened with ADCA – to ensure advocacy and policy groups “tame down” their rhetoric. They then wonder why there is uncertainty and instability within the sector, why service organisations and community groups fight an ongoing battle to recruit and retain staff, and why such organisations find it impossible to plan for the future.”

• The next Croakey post examines what the health sector might expect from the Commission of Audit.

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