TARGETING WELFARE: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney last week with Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: Peter RaePEOPLE in the Hunter who apply for welfare could be drug-tested ina trialby the Turnbull government.
The plan, in thefederal budget, will mean5000 Australians claiming Newstart and Youth Allowance will be subjectedto drug and alcohol testing from January.
“Jobseekers will be selected for the trial on a random basis, based on a data-driven profiling tool… to identify relevant characteristics that indicate a higher risk of substance abuse issues,”the budgetsays.
Welfare applicants who fail to meet the testing criteria will have theirpayments quarantined. Those whofail further testswill be referred to health professionals.
The two-year trialwill run in three so-farunannounced locations across Australia.
In Canberra last week,Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the testsiteswould be informed by a national analysis ofsewage.
The Newcastle Herald has learned that two of the sewage testing sites are in the Hunter, putting local welfare applicants in contention to be profiled for drug testing.
Cassandra Goldie,of the Australian Council of Social Service, said people with addictions wouldavoid testing and be left without anincome.
“It’s not a crime to be unemployed. This policy demonises people on low incomes and will do nothing to address addiction,” she said.
“For the people who are subjected to testing for no reason, this will just add further to their humiliation and sense of personal degradation.”
Labor has said it wants more detail about the trial. Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon said no one “will be in any doubt that we have a serious drug problem in the region”, but warned against any “under-resourced” testing plan.
“I’ll be concerned if it’s an attempt to win a few votes by a government by looking to be tough on people with addictions,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“I believe in evidence based policy. Whatever evidence a government can gather that will lead to good policy is OK by me.”
Hunter New England Health declined to comment on thepolicy.
Government to drug-test new recipients of Newstart, Youth Allowance