‘We want to help’: Government’s plan to drug test Centrelink welfare recipients

Sep 06, 2019
Peter Dutton has backed the government's plan to drug test welfare recipients claiming it is a common sense approach. Source: Twitter/ The Today Show and Getty

The Morrison government has announced a controversial plan to carry out drugs tests on welfare recipients in a bid to get more people back into the workforce – with the likes of Peter Dutton throwing their support behind the idea, calling it a “common sense approach”.

The idea, which was first shot down in 2017 after experts claimed it wasn’t appropriate, will be put forward to the Federal Parliament once again next week with politicians set to decide if it will benefit the country or cause more problems for those struggling with finances. If an agreement is made, a two year trial will be launched which would see 5,000 new recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance tested for drugs in three locations across the country including Logan in Queensland, Cantebury-Bankstown in New South Wales and Mandurah in Western Australia.

Speaking about the idea on the Today show on Friday morning, Home Affairs Minister Dutton claimed it will benefit the population and help those most in need. “It’s a common sense approach and I think the Labor Party should support it this time,” he explained.

“I’d be surprised if the Independents don’t support it because we know that people who are unemployed are three times more likely to be using methamphetamines for example. It’s a barrier to getting a job, it results in constant drug use or people who are addicted to drugs have relationship problems and we want to help those people get the help that they need.”

He continued by explaining they don’t want to punish the population currently receiving support from the government and simply want to make things easier for them and ease the process of getting off of drugs. “It’s not about punishment, it’s making sure money is spent on them, on their kids if that’s the case, but not drugs and illicit substances,” Dutton added.

“So I think its a common sense approach, it respects community values, it’s a measured approach I think the opposition should support.” While the Labor Party did not support the idea last time is was brought up, Deputy Leader Richard Marles claimed it is something they will have a good look into this time around before making a decision.

“We’re for anything which gets people back into employment,” he told host Deb Knight on the Today show. “We’re for anything which gets people off drugs. We’ll have a good look at the legislation when it’s given to us. But we want to know that this actually works and we’re mindful of the advice of experts around this. We’ve got to be really careful that whatever measures we are putting in place don’t end up demonising the most vulnerable.”

While Labor is yet to make a final decision on the proposed plan, the Greens and the Australian Council of Social Services have both condemned it, with politician Rachel Siewert openly criticising the idea on social media. Taking to Twitter shortly after the government’s announcement was made, the pollie called it a “bad policy” and said it will do nothing to support those in need.

Greens politician Rachel Siewert slammed the government’s idea to drug test welfare recipients. Source: Twitter/ Rachel Siewert

“This was a bad policy when the Govt tried to introduce it before, it is still bad policy,” she wrote. “Overwhelming expert advice to the inquiries into this legislation rejected this approach.” Siewert continued: “This is a morally bankrupt government. It’s heartbreaking that they keep ignoring the pleas of the community to increase #Newstart for people who are really suffering in poverty, instead pushing ahead with drug testing that will make people’s lives worse.”

Meanwhile, many fellow Aussies have weighed in on the topic, also taking to social media to share their thoughts on the government’s plan. The opinions were very mixed with several claiming it is a bad idea, and others congratulating the government for taking action.

“There’s not enough jobs out there for everyone, most of them are casual and don’t give enough hours to pay for our bills,” one person wrote on Twitter. “This government has no idea about the battlers out there that have to rely on welfare.”

While another questioned: “The biggest barrier to getting a job is there are no jobs out there! Also given you can’t currently adequately fund the mental health sector of rehabilitation sector who is going to pay for the drug treatment? Is the govt going to pay for drug rehab?”

On the other hand, a flurry supported the government writing on Twitter: “A good move! I fully support! Don’t use tax payers money to fund druggies.” Their thoughts were echoed by a second who added: “Testing is mandatory in most workplaces these days, why not for welfare recipients?”

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