Scott Morrison and Leigh Sales have butted heads on ABC’s 7.30 program with the Aussie prime minister defending his plans to introduce drug testing trials for welfare recipients, while Sales drew an interesting comparison between the Newstart allowance and the travel allowance federal politicians get per day.
On Monday night’s program, Morrison defended his plans to rollout the drug testing trials, declaring the new plans would give people “more choices and a brighter future”. “This is about helping people deal with a life-inhibiting addiction that helps them get off that and find themselves in employment where they have more and a brighter future,” the prime minister said.
Sales then asked whether, given “illicit drug use has doubled in men in their 50s and 60s in the past few years”, the test would include people receiving welfare in the form of the age pension – to which Morrison replied no. The pollie said the controversial plan would only apply to Newstart and Youth Allowance, adding: “Because these are the areas where we are trying to get people off welfare and into jobs and one of the biggest impediments to them getting jobs is substance abuse.”
Sales also questioned the PM about Newstart, comparing the welfare allowance to the travel allowance a politician gets per day, saying: “We have been talking a bit about Newstart. A single person on Newstart has to live off $277 a week. A federal politician gets an extra $288 per day in travel allowance when they have to go to Canberra. Is that having a fair go and getting a fair go?”
Morrison replied: “You are conflating two completely different things, Leigh. So I don’t accept the comparison. What I do suggest is this though, the Government needs to support a welfare system that is sustainable. Newstart is there to help people. The dole is there to help people when they don’t have a job and to get back on their feet.”
The comments comes just days after the Morrison government announced its controversial plan to carry out drug 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 this 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, Canterbury-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.”