Welfare drug trial attacked
SIX organisations have attacked the Federal Government’s proposal to introduce mandatory drug testing for those on income support.
Mandurah would be one of three venues in Australia to be used for the trial.
Organisations Shelter, Anti-Poverty Network of WA, the WA Council of Social Service, the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services, the Youth Affairs Council of WA and Financial Counsellors Association of WA issued a joint statement against the trial.
A spokesman said evidence from around the world demonstrated the costly and ineffective policy would make life more difficult for those on income support and people struggling with addiction, and called on the State Government to refuse to co-operate with the Federal Government should the scheme go ahead.
The proposal has also raised concern among City of Mandurah councillors.
The council plans to urge the Federal Government to focus on the region’s top priority of creating jobs rather than the trial.
At a special council meeting last week, councillors stressed its priority was creating employment.
Rather than Mandurah being used as a trial site, the council voted to support community-based initiatives to reduce drug use, subject to consultation with the community, and the development of a treatment pathway in conjunction with a local provider.
The council was concerned there had been no consultation before the announcement.
Councillor Fred Riebeling said the trial had the potential to increase the crime rate and had little chance of success.
He claimed the trial announcement had demonised the unemployed and inferred they were all drug users.
“The image of Mandurah was trashed as the only place with a drug problem,’’ he said.
“I acknowledge the problem but our product, that has taken years and years to cultivate, has been damaged.
“This area does have a problem but there is no proof that it is worse than anywhere else.
Mayor Marina Vergone said there was no information about the treatment process and support services available should an individual be referred for treatment.
She said it was a concern that Mandurah had been singled out and its reputation damaged.
Chief executive Mark Newman said the City was not happy with the trial announcement but understood it was only a trial.
“We have not said we are against it,’’ he said.
“At least it’s a step in the right direction.”