Local News

Budget 2017: Welfare recipients required to undergo random drug tests

“Frankly, the best form of welfare is a job.”

By Kate Wagner
The Budget 2017 has unveiled a tough new stance on welfare recipients which will require those on the dole to spend more time looking for work as well as undergo random drug tests and have their welfare cut after a "three-strike" demerit point system.
Five thousand job seekers across three locations will be subjected to random drug tests in 2018 and 2019, with saliva, urine or hair follicle tests looking for marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamines including ice.
The three locations will be chosen on the basis of wastewater testing that will identify local drug use.
Those who fail the first drug test will receive a cashless welfare card that will "quarantine" them from buying drugs and alcohol so they can only spend money on essentials like food, housing and utilities.A second fail will force them to see a government-appointed doctor who could recommend rehab, medication or AA meetings to stay on welfare.
Talking to Sky News, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the new system is not only fair, but "it's helping them out".
"That income management is very important and also to get that support, access to rehab, to get them off that substance abuse. Because frankly unless they do that, they can't get a job.
"And frankly, the best form of welfare is a job."
Cassandra Goldie from the Australian Council of Social Services thinks the "random" drug tests are invasive and presumptuous.
"For the overwhelming majority of people … the big problem is they can't get a paid job," she told Sky News.
"It's not a crime to be unemployed."
About 450 people each year will be blocked from claiming the Disability Support Pension due to drug and alcohol abuse alone, according to the ABC.
Under the "three-strike" demerit system, job seekers will be reported for every no-show to interviews and will be penalised with: losing half of their fortnightly payment, losing their full fortnightly payment and then have losing their payments for at least four weeks.
Additionally, anyone who turns down a job without a "proper reason" will lose their welfare for a month.
"This year's Budget represents a positive turning point for Australia's welfare system," Social Services Minister Christian Porter said.
"Taxpayers rightly expect that those that can work should work."
Economists say that although these changes may complicate welfare recipients' lives, in the end very few will be forced off welfare.