Drug tests for dole payments would disadvantage families, not users

THE children of dole recipients would be the ones to suffer if the government withheld payments from drug-affected welfare recipients, according to Lyndon Community deputy chief executive officer Dr Julaine Allan.

She made the comments after Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews on Monday finally ruled out drug-testing dole recipients, after initially refusing to take the proposal off the table.

Dr Allan said drug-testing dole recipients would do nothing to stop drug use.

“Drug-testing doesn’t make people drug-free,” she said.

“Drug-testing in workplaces such as the mines is about occupational health and safety and it has nothing to do with whether people engage in drug use outside of work,” she said. 

Reports emerged on the weekend that a review of Australia’s welfare system could propose following New Zealand’s example and introduce drug testing for welfare recipients.

The speculation was sparked by Mr Andrews, who said the government was examining international options for welfare reform, including New Zealand.

An online poll on the Central Western Daily website showed 80 per cent of 405 respondents agreed people who failed or refused drug tests should be denied government payments. 

However, Dr Allan said the people who used part of their welfare for drugs were already living below the poverty line and penalising them would not deter drug use. 

“Taking money off them would only disadvantage their children and their families,” she said. 

Government funding should be spent on providing support and advice for people who struggled to find work and had trouble with alcohol and drug-abuse, and the government should invest in employment options Dr Allan said. 

Charles Sturt University political science associate professor Dominic O’Sullivan said the results from the CWD poll were reflective of “populous politics.”

“It is good populous politics this measure, and the government could do with popular policies at this stage,” he said. 

“I would think there would be fairly broad public support.”

Professor O’Sullivan did not believe the government intended to distract voters from the horror budget and he expected people would forget all about the drug-testing suggestion in the short-term. 

nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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