Welfare drug testing pilot halted

Amanda Lyons

7/12/2017 4:05:25 PM

Federal Government plans to pilot random drug testing of social welfare recipients have been put on hold.

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Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the the Federal Government is not ‘abandoning drug testing’. Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas

The drug-testing pilot, which was part of the Federal Government’s Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017, was to take place in three trial sites in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia from January 2018.
However, these plans have been suspended after they failed to gain enough support from the Senate.
Under the pilot, 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients would be randomly urine-tested for cannabis, methamphetamine and ecstasy. Claimants who tested positive would be placed on a cashless debit card system, subjected further random testing and requests to accept drug treatment. Penalties would also apply for refusing the test.
The RACGP sent a letter to the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge in July to express its strong opposition to the proposed welfare changes. The college argued the changes had no supporting evidence, were poorly targeted to identify genuine drug addiction issues, and would cause harm to vulnerable people in the community.
While the pilot has been suspended for the time being, Social Services Minister Christian Porter has said the Federal Government is not ‘abandoning drug testing’, but rather splitting provisions for the pilot from the omnibus welfare bill to be addressed separately when Parliament resumes sitting after Christmas.
Dr Hester Wilson, Chair of the RACGP Addiction Medicine Specific Interests network, assisted in drafting the RACGP letter to Alan Tudge. She told newsGP that there are a variety of other, more beneficial, ways the Federal Government can help people with drug and addiction problems.
‘Talk to people who know about this – GPs, addiction specialists, the health fraternity, the social welfare fraternity – and put money into creating services, supports and treatment that will result in better outcomes for these people and for our community,’ she said.

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