01. What is Australia's "drug budget"? The policy mix of illicit drug-related governement spending in Australia

This Monograph (No 01), the first in the series, outlines work by Tim Moore to establish estimates of government spending for the year 2002/03. This is not a social cost (or burden of illness) study but an examination of how much governments (federal, state and territory) spend on responses to illicit drugs.Two types of spending have been identified: spending on direct policy actions (such as drug treatment, or policing drug offences) and spending on the indirect or consequential aspects of illicit drug use (such as ambulance attendance at overdose). The former are referred to as ‘proactive’ spending; the latter as ‘reactive spending’. Proactive spending, the direct actions of government in relation to drug policy, are broken down by type of intervention: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, law enforcement and interdiction. The total estimate for proactive illicit drug spending is $1.3 billion for 2002/03. Law enforcement represents 42% and interdiction 14%, together comprising the majority of spending. Prevention represents 23% and treatment 17%. Sensitivity analyses reveal large plausible ranges for some of the figures.

This work is vital to understanding the current government investment, but it does not permit judgements about what the spending should be, nor its distribution. In order to take it to the next step, dynamic models of policy impacts are required. These models use as their foundation the potential cost savings if policy is shifted.