In today’s Very Cool news, Federal Parliament will next week debate legislation that would see welfare recipients who test positive for drugs placed on income management.
The bill would see about 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients tested for multiple illegal drugs as part of a two-year trial. Ice, cannabis, and cocaine are just some of the drugs included in the tests, which will roll out in the NSW area of Canterbury-Bankstown, Western Australia’s Mandurah, and Queensland’s Logan.
The government has been trying to drug test welfare recipients for a while now – with a previous bill stalling in the Senate after pushback from the Greens and Labor.
Swathes of experts have condemned the idea since the Turnbull Coalition government first brought it up in 2017, arguing it would only make addiction worse. Of course, you have to consider the common parliamentary mantra when you hear anything when experts say something: their opinion only matters if it already aligns with what a politicians think.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said on Friday that the government had removed a component of the 2017 bill that would have charged the recipient for the cost of the test, which is around $100. Very smart! Very compassionate!
“One of the things that we certainly heard loud and clear when the original bill was put out for consultation is that people wanted to make sure that this wasn’t a punitive measure, this was actually a measure to assist people,” said Ruston.
“So we’ve listened and we’ve decided that it makes sense for us not to seek to get that amount recovered.”
Labor and the Greens have not formally announced whether they intend to oppose the bill. Previously, One Nation and Cory Bernardi supported the measures, whereas Jacqui Lambie has flagged she would only support it if federal MPs were also prepared to be drug tested at work.
The Australian Council of Social Service has previously said the measures would be “an extraordinary and alarming departure” from how the social welfare system is intended to function.