DRUG TEST FOR LABOR
Exclusive: ALP voters back welfare checks
LABOR is facing its own test on its opposition to the government’s plan to drug check welfare recipients with the majority of ALP voters backing the move.
A Daily Telegraph YouGov-Galaxy poll reveals 63 per cent approval among Labor voters for the proposal to screen 5000 new Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.
Those who fail the test would have 80 per cent of their welfare payments put on a card that could not be used to buy drugs.
THE federal government’s plan to drug test jobseekers is supported by the vast majority of Labor voters — despite their party opposing it — and is even backed by welfare recipients in the proposed NSW trial site.
The findings have emerged after a leading addiction expert compared the plan to Russia seeking to screen all citizens for HIV in the 1990s and put those who came up positive on an island.
A national YouGovGalaxy survey for The Daily Telegraph reveals 70 per cent approval for the proposal to screen 5000 new Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients in Canterbury-Bankstown, Logan in Queensland and Mandurah in Western Australia for heroin, cocaine, ecstasy cannabis and ice. Those who fail the test would have 80 per cent of their welfare payments put on a card that could not be used to buy drugs. People who red light a second screening 25 days later would receive addiction treatment from a new $10 million fund.
The YouGovGalaxy survey showed 63 per cent of Labor voters favour the plan.
A straw poll by The Telegraph outside Bankstown Centrelink also found strong backing for the proposal.
This support is at odds with the view of the local mayor, Labor’s Khal Asfour, who has said the trial is a “joke” and that the area is being picked on.
Among 14 people currently or previously on Newstart or Youth Allowance, nine backed the trial with three undecided and two opposed.
Brooke Masmela of Padstow believed it was a good idea. “I think it’s fair because it’s taxpayers’ money,” Ms Masmela, a full-time mother who previously received Newstart, said. “If they are good enough to help you then you need to be legit.”
Shadow Social Services Minister Linda Burney, whose electorate covers part of the proposed trial area, said “Labor has and will be guided by the experts and the evidence who have said with one voice that this is a blunt and ineffective instrument and does not work”.
Top addiction expert, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Adrian Reynolds, told a Senate inquiry earlier this month the government’s plan sent a “shiver” down his spine.
“I once worked with the United Nations in Russia … they were going to test everyone for HIV/AIDS and those who came up positive were going to be placed on an island. This reminds me of that experience ... 20 something years ago,” Associate Professor Reynolds said.
He did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said more than 3.5 million Australians underwent random drug tests as part of their employment. The trial would help to ensure jobseekers were eligible for every role offered.
Ms Ruston said the trial would collect evidence to see if it is possible to help people overcome drug use “which we know is a barrier to work”. “The taxpayer has the right to expect their money is being spent responsibly,” Ms Ruston said.
The government’s best hope of getting the trial bill through parliament is convincing Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie.
Initially she said she would vote in favour of the bill before reversing her position, saying politicians should be tested too. She also wants more rehabilitation services established first.
In certain inner-city circles, even the very concept of drug testing welfare recipients is utterly unthinkable. That is because some in that blinkered community have not moved on from a 1970s mentality that holds welfare to be an absolute right, regardless of the circumstances of those receiving welfare.
Sensibly, that view has gradually fallen from favour as Australians have come to accept that welfare is a privilege and should not be abused.
Yet still there are some who believe welfare should be granted to just about anybody who puts out their hand.
Because this group includes many prominent media voices, it often appears to be a majority or mainstream outlook.
But a stunning new YouGovGalaxy survey for The Daily Telegraph now reveals overwhelming national support for a drug testing trial.
In a game-changing result, the poll found that 70 per cent of Australians approve a federal government proposal to screen 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.
Under the government’s drug testing plan, welfare recipients in Canterbury-Bankstown, Logan in Queensland and Mandurah in Western Australia will be tested for the presence of heroin, cannabis, ecstasy, ice and cocaine. Naturally, this has outraged the welfare industry.
This is understandable. The welfare industry would not exist if the number of people on welfare is drastically reduced.
The welfare industry’s condemnation should be seen for what it is: pure self-interest.
Labor, which opposes the drug testing plan, may be surprised to discover that 63 per cent of Labor voters were in favour of it. If Labor has any serious desire to present a brand that is truly distinct from the Greens, this would seem to be an ideal opportunity.
The Daily Telegraph’s quick survey yesterday of Bankstown Centrelink clients also turned up what some might consider surprising results.
Of 14 people currently or presently on Newstart or Youth Allowance, nine supported drug testing. Three were undecided. Only two were opposed.
Brooke Masmela, a previous Newstart recipient, made an extremely good case for the trial.
“I think it’s fair because it’s taxpayers’ money,” Ms Masmela said. “If they are good enough to help you then you need to be legit.” Well said.
Padstow mum Brooke Masmela, with her son Elisha, supports a welfare drug test trial.