Subjects: Drug testing welfare recipients
A vast majority of Australian voters support the Federal Government’s move to drug test welfare recipients. Three out of four voters are in favour of trials to drug test welfare recipients. This is according to a Newspoll released today. The Turnbull Government may have the public’s support for this trial, but Labor and the Greens are still opposing it in Parliament.
Christian Porter is the Social Services Minister. He’s on the line.
Yeah, g’day to you, Ben.
I had a feeling when Labor came out early on and said no, no, no, no, we’re going to oppose this, I said on the air that day ‘I don’t think they’ve read the public’s mood on this one’ and this poll proves it, right?
Well, it’s incredibly strong support for the policy, and as you said, 73 per cent of voters are in favour of it. I mean, astonishingly, 50 per cent of Greens voters are in favour of it, and that makes complete sense to us because it reflects common sense. I mean what we are trying to do is change people’s behaviour during those critical first months of job search. We’re trying to ensure that hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars don’t end up in the pockets of drug dealers, and we’re trying to ensure that people who have a problem that’s preventing them from getting work are compelled, using the welfare system, into appropriate treatment, and most people just think that is common sense.
Alright. What have you got to do to get Labor and the Greens across the line? Can you do it without them? I mean, if the public is three out of four, 75 per cent in support of drug testing welfare recipients under a trial situation, what have you got to do to get this thing through the Parliament?
Well, I think that Labor and Greens have an ideological aversion to it that is unlikely to change, and what they do tend to do in situations like this is place some ideology around rights to spend welfare or whatever characterisation it takes, and place that above the potential for strong, positive outcomes for Australians who want to move from welfare to work.
I actually think the Nick Xenophon Team and Nick Xenophon himself is the key to this. They have indicated at this stage they’re not likely to support it, but they’re not opposed in an in-principle, ideological way, like Labor or the Greens are.
And look, this is part of a wider improvement and positive development that the Turnbull Government has achieved. Under Labor, the bill, the money that the taxpayer was spending on unemployment benefits was growing at an astonishing 13.7 per cent. We’ve brought that growth down to about 3.5 per cent, and in fact for the first time in a long time the actual numbers of people, Australians on Newstart, is shrinking.
How have we been able to do that? Well, one, we’ve created job growth, but, two, we’ve been actually willing to try new things in the welfare space; stricter compliance, things like the cashless welfare card and what we’re saying to the Australian people and the Senate, to Nick Xenophon’s team, is we have a track record here of improving individual Australians’ lives by moving them from welfare into work, and we want to try something else that’s new. If it doesn’t work – and we’ll measure it very clearly – then we won’t keep going with it, but given our track record of vast improvement in this space, we should at least be able to try something new.
Bring it on. Just quickly, I see that your electorate office in Perth was vandalised early this morning. Everything okay?
Well, I guess it’s not much different from some of the communities, Ben, that you talk to on a daily basis, but we’ve got this lovely main street up in Ellenbrook where my electorate office is, a lot of small businesses, and some idiot..well, maybe I should say, Ben, some alleged idiot – has gone up and down the street with a shovel and smashed all the front windows in. And you can just imagine, with a lot of businesses who are on small margins, the hassle, the cost, people in my community are just sick to death of it.
Hope they catch him. Thanks for your time.
Christian Porter, the Social Services Minister, joining us on the line.