Welfare drug test bill on way to Senate

Under the proposal, 5000 people on either Newstart or Youth Allowance would have their saliva, urine or hair tested for drugs (ABC News/Jonathan Beal)

Legislation underpinning the Morrison Government’s drug testing of Australians on welfare has passed the first parliamentary hurdle. Source: The Australian.

The Coalition is now hoping the third time will be lucky for its controversial proposal.

After passing the Lower House yesterday, the bill is on its way to the Senate, where the crossbench is expected to torpedo the plan. A Senate committee has heard mountains of evidence from frontline drug and alcohol abuse support workers warning against the proposal.

However, Government minister Karen Andrews described it as a “unique and innovative approach” to helping people with substance abuse.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie – whose party holds two key Senate votes – said the legislation was an ideological wedge.

“Centre Alliance is not a welfare rights party,” she told the chamber. “We are a centrist party that makes decisions based on evidence and sound policymaking and there is no evidence for this and this is not sound policymaking.

“It’s a distraction from the fact Newstart is so woefully pitiful as a payment that people can’t survive on.”

Senate crossbencher Jacqui Lambie has also refused to throw her support behind the legislation, demanding more rehabilitation beds be made available and raising the prospect of drug-screening politicians.

The two-year trials would occur in Sydney’s Canterbury-Bankstown area, Logan in Queensland and Mandurah in Western Australia.

Under the proposal, 5000 people on either Newstart or Youth Allowance would have their saliva, urine or hair tested for drugs. Those who refuse would have welfare payments immediately cancelled.

Anyone failing the tests would have 80 per cent of their payments quarantined on debit cards and those who fail twice would be offered drug counselling.

The Government is yet to finalise the framework of the trial but the draft laws give the minister discretion to create drug test rules. This includes the list of drugs being tested for, which currently includes methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

The Senate committee’s report on the bill shows the political divide on the proposal, with Liberal senator and chair Wendy Askew recommending it be passed.

But committee members from the Greens and Labor urged their fellow senators to stop the plan in its tracks.

FULL STORY

Welfare drug test laws on way to Senate (The Australian

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