Drug test to divert only 10-15
Federal Government plans to test hundreds of new welfare recipients for drugs in the unemployment hotspot of Mandurah are expected to divert no more than 15 people to treatment.
Painted as a “tough love” approach to getting people off drugs and into the workforce, the two-year testing of 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients is a signature Budget measure championed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mandurah was selected as the third and final location for the trials, which are due to begin on January 1.
If the divisive proposal passes the Senate, about 750 people in the City of Mandurah will be tested for cannabis, ecstasy, MDMA, methamphetamine and opiates.
Welfare recipients who test positive once will be put on income management and those who fail a second test will be referred to a medical professional for treatment.
The redirection of addicts to medical services has been less controversial than other parts of the policy, but Department of Social Services officials have revealed only 10 to 15 participants in Mandurah are expected to fail two drug tests during the trial.
About 50 to 60 welfare recipients are expected to test positive once and be forced on to income management.
Appearing at a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra yesterday, the officials refused to provide the estimated cost of the trials in Mandurah, Canterbury-Bankstown and Logan because it was “commercial in confidence”.
Queensland Senator Murray Watt said the trial was going to cost “well above $10 million”.
The Government is considering shelving legislation for the drug testing after opposition from Senate crossbenchers.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the Government had been “very clear from the beginning” that it did not expect large numbers of jobseekers to test positive for drugs during the trial.
“This is because the first objective is to have people change their behaviour and avoid drug use when they’re looking for work,” Mr Porter said.