Martin Whitely

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Martin Whitely
Martin Whitely small.jpg
In office
10 February 2001 – 9 March 2013
Preceded byClive Brown
Succeeded byDave Kelly
Personal details
Born (1959-10-19) 19 October 1959 (age 59)
Perth Western Australia
Political partyLabor Party
WebsiteMartin Whitely Homepage

Martin Paul Whitely (born 19 October 1959 in Perth, Australia), is a researcher, author and was a Labor member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly from February 2001 until he retired from state politics in March 2013. He represented the electorate of Roleystone from 2001 to 2005. Following the abolition of Roleystone, he represented the electorate of Bassendean and was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry from August 2006 until the Carpenter government lost office in September 2008.[1]

During his parliamentary career Whitely was outspoken on a number of issues including:

  • campaigning against the use of ADHD medication by children
  • opposing the inclusion of Psychosis Risk Disorder (Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome) in DSM5
  • criticising the faction system of the Western Australian Labor Party (WA Labor)

Whilst still in politics Whitely wrote Speed Up and Sit Still - The Controversies of ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment (UWA Publishing 2010).[2] Since retiring from politics he completed a PhD (thesis title ADHD Policy, Practice and Regulatory Capture in Australia 1992–2012).[3] Subsequently, he has researched Australian mental health policy and practice and pharmaceutical and medical device regulation, suggesting reforms of Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) product safety monitoring processes.[4][5]

Whitely won the Curtin University 2017 Research and Engagement News Story Award for a study he led published in the Medical Journal of Australia (Influence of birth month of Western Australian children on the probability of being treated for ADHD[6]) which found that among West Australian school children aged 6–10 the youngest in class (born in June) were approximately twice as likely to take ADHD medication as their oldest classmates (born the previous July).[7]

Anti-ADHD Child Medication Advocacy[edit]

From 1995 until his election to parliament in 2001, Whitely was a secondary school teacher. During this period Western Australian ADHD child prescribing rates rose rapidly.[8] By 2000 they were among the highest in the world and over twice the per-capita rate in of the second highest Australian state (New South Wales).[9]

In his first parliamentary speech (2001) he called for tighter ADHD prescribing controls.[10] In late December 2002 the Western Australian Health Minister Bob Kucera and Whitely jointly announced the abolition of “en bloc authorisation” which allowed “specialists to prescribe stimulants without individual patient authorisation”.[11] In August 2003 the Stimulant Regulatory Scheme began collecting detailed annual reporting of ADHD stimulant in Western Australia.[11] Data from the Stimulant Regulatory Scheme shows after these changes the number of Western Australian children prescribing stimulants fell from 8,859 in 2004 to 5,636 in 2010, despite the state's population increasing by approximately 17%.[12] This approximates to a 46% decrease in per capita ADHD stimulant child prescribing rates over this period.

Between 2002 and 2005 the Western Australian proportion of 12-17 year olds self-reported having used amphetamine non-medically in the last week fell from 3.2% to 2.0%.[13] In 2007 then Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter attributed this “significant decline” in amphetamine abuse among teenagers “to a drop in the number of prescriptions for amphetamines” to treat ADHD.[14] However, the 2005 Australian Secondary School Alcohol and Drug Survey indicated that even after this fall there was still considerable illicit use of ADHD stimulants by teenagers. The survey reported that 45% of Western Australian 12- to 17-year-olds who had ever taken ADHD medications weren't prescribed the drugs and that 27% of those who had been prescribed psychostimulants had either given them away or sold them.[15]

In 2007 Premier Carpenter announced the intention to establish two clinics to better support children diagnosed with ADHD stating "this new approach will ensure that stimulant medication is not the first line of treatment. If our recent history is any guide, reducing ADHD prescription rates will reduce [amphetamine] abuse rates".[14] However, in late 2008 the Carpenter Government lost the Western Australian state election and Whitely became an opposition member with reduced influence.

Beginning in 2011 there was a rebound in child prescribing rates with most of the increase occurring between 2014 and 2016 after Whitely retired. In 2016 8,857 Western Australian children received ADHD stimulant. From 2010 until 2016 the state's population increased by 13%.[12] Despite the rebound per capita child stimulant prescribing rates in 2016 were 25% lower than those in 2004.

Whitely also campaigned to influence national (Australian) ADHD policy. He unsuccessfully sought to prevent non-stimulant ADHD medication Strattera (Atomoxetine Hydrochloride) from being added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme because of its boxed warning for increased risk of suicidality.[16][17] Strattera was added to the PBS in 2007. Until 17 February 2018 the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) had received 149 reports of adverse events. This included 78 reports of suicidal/homicidal/self-harm ideation or behaviour, with four incomplete suicide attempts (including a 7-year-old girl) and three completed suicides (including a nine-year-old boy).[18] Because adverse event reporting to the TGA by doctors is voluntary the actual number of adverse events associated with Strattera (or any medication) in Australia is unknown.[19] Whitely also campaigned to prevent the endorsement by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ADHD national treatment guidelines developed by the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP).[20][21] The guidelines were never endorsed by the NHMRC because of concerns about conflicts of interest among guidelines panel members and the heavy reliance on research lead by high-profile ADHD medication proponents with undisclosed significant conflicts of interest, most notably Professor Joseph Biederman.[22]

Whitely's self-described “at times obsessive”[23] campaign against the use of ADHD medications by children has attracted considerable criticism. Prominent Australian psychiatrists including Professors Florence Levy[24] and Alasdair Vance,[25] have been highly critical of Whitely, who has no medical training, for politicising the disorder, ignoring scientific evidence and promoting an emotive and sensationalist debate. However, Whitely has received praise for his advocacy from prominent American psychiatrist Professor Allen Frances who lead the development of the DSMIV on behalf of the American Psychiatric Association.[26]

Psychosis Risk Disorder (Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome)[edit]

Whitely was also prominent in Australian efforts to prevent the official recognition of ‘Psychosis Risk Disorder’ in the influential American Psychiatric Association's, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM5) published in 2013.[27][28] Psychosis Risk Disorder (officially termed Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome) was removed from the draft of the DSM5 after its inclusion lost the support of former prominent advocates including former Australian of the Year, psychiatrist Professor Patrick McGorry.[29]

Democratic Reform of the Western Australian Labor Party[edit]

Between 2007 and 2011 along with WA Labor Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, Whitely led the Labor Reform Forum. The forum argued unsuccessfully for rule changes in WA Labor designed to reduce the influence of factional leaders. Whitely was particularly critical of the power the state secretaries of the two largest unions affiliated to WA Labor, United Voice (then Dave Kelly) and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union (then Joe Bullock).[30]

Despite believing he had too much personal power Whitely endorsed Dave Kelly as his successor in the seat of Bassendean.[31] However, he was highly critical of Joe Bullock and then (2012) rumours of plans to preselect Bullock at the top of the WA Labor Senate ticket.[32] In 2013 after leaving state parliament Whitely resigned his membership of the Labor Party when Bullock was preselected for the number 1 spot on WA Labor's Senate Ticket.


  1. ^ "Extract from the Western Australian Parliamentary Handbook". 2007. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2008.
  2. ^ full text available at
  3. ^ Available at
  4. ^ Whitely M for the Health Consumers’ Council of WA submission to the Senate Select Inquiry into Health, Licensing and Subsidising Pharmaceuticals in Australia - Reforms needed to deliver Transparency, Safety and Value for Money, 2014 Archived 28 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine)
  5. ^ Whitely M, Joint submission by Health Consumers Councils across Australia to the Senate Inquiry into the number of women in Australia who have had transvaginal mesh implants and related matters (July 2017)
  6. ^ Whitely M. Lester L. Phillimore J. Robinson S. Influence of birth month of Western Australian children on the probability of being treated for ADHD, Medical Journal of Australia, 23 January 2017.
  7. ^ Long, Jarrad (13 October 2017). "2017 Research and Engagement Award winners - News and Events - Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia".
  8. ^ ‘In 1989, 880 people were prescribed stimulant medication. By 2000 this had risen to 20,648 people. It is estimated that between 85 to 90 percent of these people are children between the ages of 4 and 17 years or 4.2 to 4.5 percent of the child population in this age range..’ Government of Western Australia (2002), Department of Health, Attentional Problems in Children: Diagnosis and Management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Associated Disorders, Office of Mental Health, Department of Health, Perth, p.21. Available at
  9. ^ Berbatis Constantine G, V. Bruce Sunderland et al (2002), ‘Licit psychostimulant consumption in Australia, 1984-2000: international and jurisdictional comparison’, Medical Journal of Australia, 177; 10, p.540
  10. ^ "Inaugural speech" (PDF).
  11. ^ a b Cabinet, Department of the Premier and. "Media Statements - New policy targets diagnosis and treatment of ADHD".
  12. ^ a b Department of Health, (2017), Western Australian Stimulant Regulatory Scheme 2016 Annual Report, Pharmaceutical Services Branch, Health Protection Group, Department of Health, Western Australia.
  13. ^ Drug and Alcohol Office WA, ASSAD Drug Survey: illicit Drug Report 2011 WA results Surveillance Report No 9 p.23
  14. ^ a b "Big drop in drug abuse among ADHD patients". 27 September 2007.
  15. ^ Drug and Alcohol Office WA, ASSAD Drug Report 2005, p.33.
  16. ^ "Extract" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Nocookies". The Australian. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  18. ^ Adverse events are searchable at
  19. ^ Administration, Australian Government Department of Health. Therapeutic Goods (19 December 2013). "Overview of how TGA manages medicine adverse event reports".
  20. ^ WA Hansard$FILE/A38+S1+20091126+p10021b-10036a.pdf
  21. ^ "Making a mess of ADHD diagnosis and treatment". 2 December 2010.
  22. ^ Practitioners, The Royal Australian College of General. "RACGP - ADHD guidelines – flaws in the literature and the need to scrutinise the evidence".
  23. ^ Whitely, Martin Paul (2014). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) policy, practice and regulatory capture in Australia 1992-2012 (PhD Thesis). John Curtin Institute of Public Policy – Curtin Business School. hdl:20.500.11937/1776.[page needed]
  24. ^ Levy, Florence (2013). "Child psychopharmacology: Politics versus science". Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 47 (10): 961. doi:10.1177/0004867413498938.
  25. ^ Vance, Alasdair L (2015). "Commentary on 'ADHD diagnosis continues to fail the reliability and validity tests' by Martin Whitely". Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 49 (6): 574–5. doi:10.1177/0004867415585322. PMID 25922350.
  26. ^ Frances, Allen (10 March 2012). "Taming the ADD Epidemic".
  27. ^ David Weber, Australian Broadcasting Commission, The World Today, 25 May 2012.
  28. ^ "Nocookies". The Australian. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  29. ^ Amy Corderoy, About-turn on treatment of the Young, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 2012
  30. ^ M. Whitely, Too Much Power in Too Few Hands 15 January 2011, The West Australian
  31. ^ Name * (27 May 2018). "The Poll Bludger". The Poll Bludger. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  32. ^ WA Legislative Assembly Hansard — Tuesday, 13 November 2012 p8442b-8452a$FILE/A38+S1+20121113+p8442b-8452a.pdf

External links[edit]

Western Australian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Clive Brown
Member for Bassendean
Succeeded by
Dave Kelly