Centrelink and drug testing

Welfare recipients across Australia may soon be tested for illegal drug use before being eligible to claim benefits.

The proposal is that those who receive welfare and test positive for drugs would then be placed on an income management scheme.

The suggestion by the Morrison government has drawn criticism as many believe it could stigmatise those on welfare. The proposed alternative is to direct the investment towards rehabilitation support rather than spending on drug testing and using the welfare system to correct behaviour.

The planned legislation has already been rejected twice. It’s felt by some that people who are disadvantaged would now be doubly punished were the legislation to go through.

According to experts, drug use is a health issue rather than a social issue. It seems with this proposal; the government is targeting welfare recipients instead of the wider community to curb drug use.

The Minister for Families and Social Services Social Services Anne Ruston felt the system would identify people who needed help and that it was not a punitive system.

On the other hand, taxpayers’ dollars meant to be spent on welfare, are going into drug dealers’ hands. Surely the welfare system is then tacitly supporting the criminal network if it doesn’t attempt to stop drug use by recipients of welfare?

The government is planning a two-year trial period and has selected three areas for these trials, they are:

  • Logan (QLD)
  • Canterbury-Bankstown (NSW)
  • Mandurah (WA)

Around 5000 Newstart and youth allowance recipients will be selected at random to undergo the testing before they can get their payments. This type of system has not previously been successful overseas, but the government believes that the plan will help people get on their feet and find a job.

If the person again fails a drug test within 25 days of the first, a referral will be made for treatment by a medical professional.

Is compulsory drug testing for Centrelink recipients a good idea?