Minister unsure of Senate support for drug-test trial

Anne Ruston (ABC News/Matt Roberts)

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says it is “hard to tell” if the Coalition’s plan to drug-test welfare recipients will pass Parliament this year. Source: The Age.

By Judith Ireland, The Age

But she insists the Morrison Government is still committed to the high-profile trial.

Senator Ruston also dismissed a pre-budget appeal from welfare advocates for a $95-a-week rise to Newstart, explaining the government is focused on getting people into jobs instead.

The Coalition revived its controversial drug-testing trial last September after the policy, first announced by the Turnbull government, was twice blocked by the Senate in the last Parliament.

Labor and the Greens are opposed to the plan, which would randomly test 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients across three locations. Centre Alliance is also opposed at this stage, which makes senator Jacqui Lambie’s vote critical to the bill passing in the upper house. A spokeswoman for the Tasmanian independent confirmed yesterday she would not support the policy until more drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres are built.

Senator Ruston said the Coalition was still committed to the drug-testing policy, but noted the recent bushfires had “pretty much consumed all of our time”.

She said the Coalition would continue to work with the crossbench “to try and sell the virtues of the policy”.

Asked if the trial would pass Parliament this year, Senator Ruston replied: “It’s hard to tell.”

Doctors and other drug and alcohol experts have condemned the trial, arguing it is not evidence-based and goes against previous expert advice provided to the government.

Last month, in its pre-budget submission, the Australian Council of Social Service increased its proposed rise to Newstart from $75 to $95 a week, arguing rising food prices, rent and medical costs are putting more pressure on unemployed people.

Newstart has not been increased in real terms since 1994, but Senator Ruston said it was increased twice a year in line with inflation “to keep up with the cost of living”.

FULL STORY

‘Hard to tell’: Minister unsure of Senate support for Newstart drug-test trial (The Age

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