Subjects: Drug Testing
The Federal Government will target Western Sydney with its plan to drug test new job seekers. The random drug test program was announced in the May Budget for 5000 new job hunters. If they test positive once, their Centrelink payment will be income managed, restricting the amount they can access in cash. If the job hunter fails a second time, they’ll have to enter treatment, and if they don’t enter that treatment they risk losing their welfare.
Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, joins me from Western Sydney now.
Morning to you. Why have you chosen the Canterbury-Bankstown area?
Three things; A large number of people coming into the NewStart, so the welfare system. Secondly, we looked at places where there’s enough on-the-ground support services to cope with any increase in demand for drug and alcohol rehab. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this community – and it’s no orphan in this respect – but this community is suffering from problems, particularly around amphetamine use and ice.
So for instance, one of the datasets we’ve looked at here is that hospitalisations due to the use of amphetamines here and in the surrounding area have increased by 2000 per cent over the last four years.
So, those three things together make this a good place to try this new scheme, where we’re trying to identify people, get them the help that they need, rather than just have the welfare system pushing cash out the door in a way that very often makes things worse.
There is criticism, though, isn’t there? Addiction experts say this won’t work. They say it’s expensive, it’s ineffective, it’s going to swamp treatment centres, and similar trials have been tried and abandoned in the UK and Canada. So, what do you say to that?
Well, the trial that we’re running here is actually very different from things that have been tried internationally, because this is not about cutting people off welfare, it’s about identifying people whose drug use is creating a barrier to employment and ensuring first of all that cash just doesn’t simply flow out the door in a way that makes that drug problem worse.
But secondly, on a second positive test, that there’s a medical assessment by a professional that we’ll appoint and pay for, and that a treatment plan is devised and that the person undertakes that treatment.
So, this is about identifying people with a drug problem that’s creating a barrier to employment and helping them do something about that problem – very different from what’s been tried internationally.
Okay, good luck with it.
Thank you Minister, for your time this morning.