The Australian Government Will Drug Test Welfare Recipients

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The 2017-18 budget will save the government $632 million in welfare payments, in part thanks to tough new rules that will target and penalise Centrelink recipients that are affected by drugs and alcohol.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said in his budget speech that the government still wanted to support jobseekers and welfare recipients, but that it would have to be a "two way street" for those already struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. A drug test trial will be run on 5000 current welfare recipients, and any of those recipients that test positive for a list of substances will be have their regular payments locked on to a cashless card that can only be used for "essential living expenses."

Welfare recipients that are affected by drugs will also be "subjected to further tests and possible referral for treatment" according to the government, although it also says that those with "genuine issues" will not be "unfairly penalised". Landlords in affordable housing will also be able to deduct rental payments directly from tenants' welfare payments.

This comes in addition to the government's new "three strikes" rule for welfare recipients -- a demerit point style scheme where missing one employment appointment without a "reasonable excuse" will have their payments suspended until they re-engage, and repeat infringements see payments suspended completely for as long as four weeks.

Social security and welfare is projected to cost $164 billion in the 2017-18 federal budget, rising to $178b in 2018-19, $184b in 2019-20 and $191b in 2020-21. According to the government, this increase in expenses is due to the impact of a fully funded National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Government is also strengthening participation requirements for welfare recipients to better drive participation outcomes. These will be coupled with a new targeted Job Seeker Compliance Framework that will apply stronger financial penalties to persistently non-compliant job seekers, whilst ensuring genuinely disadvantaged and vulnerable job seekers are supported. This includes refocusing Work for the Dole activities towards disadvantaged job seekers, and ensuring job-ready job seekers engage in more cost effective Work for the Dole activities. The changes will encourage and support those who have the capacity to work to do so, while ensuring disadvantaged job seekers have the opportunity to develop the characteristics employers look for, such as strong communication skills, the ability to work effectively with others, and reliability.


    Wonder if people will start trading these cashless cards for cash..

      I'd hazard a guess and say they will be linked to health care cards or something along those lines.
      That or a debit like card.

        yeah they have been testing out the cashless welfare cards in a few communities and it seems to be working out rather well. I already know of one person in town that should be placed on the cashless card system because he is a full blown alcholic

        Its not too hard to get around it though. I work, but if a mate wanted $50 cash, he can just pay for my weekly shop and I give him the cash.

        Its an extra step, but not a hard one, and means that the crap they are trying to prevent probably wont be stopped so easily.

        Dont get me wrong, I like the idea, but where theres a will, theres a way.

      They already do, in some of the communities they trialled these cards in. It's as simple as saying "you give me the cash, I'll go buy it on the card"

      IIRC there was even a person who was stupid enough to try and sell theirs on their local Facebook Buy Sell Swap page.

      What reason could anyone possibly have to want to buy the card off a welfare recipient? "I have some cash and I feel like limiting what it is capable of"

        The reason is that I might sell you my $150 cash card for $100.

    Well, this will be interesting. I currently live in community housing where most people are just dole-bludging and taking drugs all day. If they genuinely cut these peoples payments they will be back homeless and committing crimes, will probably end up (back) in jail.

    Fair enough too I say. They deserve to be in jail rather than just living the life at tax payers expense. If only they tackled the Disability pension rorters just as hard. It's all too easy for some to walk in to a doctors office and say they're hearing voices, end up with a pension and drugs for their effort after some assessments. I know because I've heard blokes boast of it.

    Meanwhile I'm a student receiving less than them for putting my studies first. The government says I should get a job while studying to support myself, but we're unable even to access job support agency's (I'd kill for a forklift license, but goodluck affording one myself on $100 a fortnight, half of which goes to phone and internet and the other half to food.)

    The systems pretty stuffed.

      You do realise that prisons aren't funded by fairy dust and rainbows? It's not cheap to have someone in prison. More needs to be invested in programs to help people break this cycle you describe.

        That's all well and good if people want to get off the drugs. But I've been to plenty of people who are on the dole in housing commission blocks and have no interest in getting off drugs or alcohol.

        We have support networks and systems to help people break addiction but they have to want to get off the drugs to do it. Substance abuse and the associated burdens on the healthcare system aren't cheap either. You know, and it's hard to justify putting up the price for someone's poor choices.

        I don't agree that prison is the answer but it's not as simple as finding more programs, sitting back and converting the addicts. Most addicts made the choice to take hard drugs like methamphetamines. Welfare isn't supposed to be for addicts who don't work because of their own crap choices - and I think it's fair that people should take some responsibility for their actions if they're on public handouts.

          You really need to read some literature on environmental justice and get off the high horse. The simple fact is that disempowered people have limited choices and feel completely unable to change their circumstances. They seek escapism from this through substance abuse or suicide. It is the systems, which is undignified and contradictory to the human rights convention, which causes most of the issues. Add to this unemployment and what are you expecting, all these people with zero prospects to go out and get the no jobs available, to compete for the few jobs against the middle-class who are unstigmatised by society and beat them for the jobs. Education of the middle and upper class will be the first step. Punishing the disenfranchised will compound the injustice they already suffer.

            You really need to join us in the real world and get off your own high horse. I actually work with these people, go into their homes, talk to them, observe the myriad health problems their habits have caused them, watched the cycle continue, and dealt with the end result of their choices. I've heard all the excuses.

            It's always the system's fault? No. At some point you have to start taking personal responsibility. The system didn't put meth in your hand and force you to smoke it. You make that choice.

            I did criminology and criminal justice years ago and used to be the same as you - despairing of the underclass and their plight at the hands of an elitist capitalist system. Then I started dealing with them in healthcare and realised that some of them have no intention of changing and are happy being addicts on state handouts. Plenty of people make something of themselves or live as best they can on welfare.

            But no it's always the system's fault. Down with the system etc...

              You've watched the cycle continue....yet don't see that as a problem. Seems legit.

              If unemployment is 5% and we have 15% of the country below the poverty's not the poor who are at fault.

              Once again, there is literature...your feelings and anecdotes don't make statistics disappear. They mean nothing when put against facts.

                I've watched it continue because those people refuse to get help.

                Your statistics are for social sciences and inadequately explain human behaviour. This isn't hard science and your literature over the years has accomplished very little. But pat yourself on the back while blaming the system.

                  It's accomplished nothing because people continue to blame the poor for being unemployed and having no money when the system has high unemployment and low wages below the poverty line. You are watching inaction on the proposals and continuing to blame the most vulnerable. Other countries with adequate welfare support, do not have this issue because it was managed at an institutional level. If they fixed it using the literature and we ignored the literature and nothing is fixed, that does not mean the literature is bad.

                  Why is the suicide rate higher based on socioeconomic factors? Human behaviour or because the socioeconomic factor creates situations that perpetuate depression and helplessness? You know what else occurs with those situations? Substance abuse to stop the depression.

                  I didn't reply because your world view is set in place and you won't consider any other possibilities, and you'd rather throw literature from the mid 2000s instead. None of them really reinforce what you're saying unless you choose to take a narrow interpretation of them.

                  You're hell-bent on blaming the system for everybody's problems and treating it like a causative factor, totally ignoring the role that human free will plays. There are loads of people on welfare who you might consider disadvantaged who do not become drug addicts. There are loads of people who are financially stable and yet do become addicts. I get to see both groups on a daily basis. Nobody blames the poor for being poor, that's a strawman argument you've invented to attempt to claim some ambiguous moral high ground.

                  I'm not engaging with you anymore because you're too intent on blaming the system rather than acknowledging the role of human free will to choose to turn to drugs. But hey, it's easier to just blame the system for everyone's problems.

                  The literature is contemporary. My world view is based on contemporary science. Yours is based on anecdotes. We have 16% of the population who are below the poverty line, 5% unemployment on average and far higher if you count Tasmania....all statistics from 2016/7. The suicide rate is higher based on socieconomic status but by your argument, that is a willing choice without any external factor. Poor people like suicide more according to you. Poor people also have compartively higher substance abuse, all substances legal or not including gambling. Again, you claim it is because poor people like abusing substances more than rich people without any external influence. The literature states escapism is used when a lack of control is when you poor and have no political power so you just exist in your world.

                  Your vierws are harmful and anecdotal. Politicians who choose not to address 16% poverty do so because people like you have accepted that 16% of people are choosing to be poor and you willfully ignore the statistics and science that contradict your claim.

                  Last edited 12/05/17 7:45 am

                  The large gap between the poverty line and unemployed stats is because people who stop looking for work are no longer classified as unemployed by the government.

                  Some might suggest that it can be both the system and personal choice. As with a lot of things it is a combination of factors. The system does have a lot of problems and this causes people to make bad choices. It doesn't completely absolve them of personal responsibility but it is a factor that needs to be considered. Drugs take away pain. Poor people have a lot of that. They dont have a lot of ways to get rid of it. If they drink like the rich we call them alcoholics. If they snort Cocain like the rich we call them drug addicts. But when the rich do it, it's charming and cool. Doesn't make sense to me.

      You might want to rethink what your ideas actually translate into. An increase in direct crime from those who surround you and substantially more tax money used on policing and incarceration.

        so the option becomes that we just let them rort the system, bludge of the tax payer and buy drugs, which in turn fuels crime to support the habit when the dole money runs out?

        Its a small price to pay to incarcerate scum to ensure my kids wont be stepping on needles or having to listen to the trash and vulgarity that spews from their mouths when they're looking for a fix in the city.

        Last edited 10/05/17 9:34 am

          @mucktard, this isnt the 90s, Heroin needles and Bad grunge music, this is the ICE AGE, get with the program, Crime is about to hit an all time high, and the ICE heads dont take no for an answer

          I don't believe its helpful to look down on others and label them as scum.
          Try taking a moment to stop and consider why some people turn to addictions and the poverty cycle that leads to the destructive life choices you disparage. You may find that blatantly labelling those in need will lead them to believe they have nothing to offer and nothing to lose by meeting those expectations. Also speaking of children - taking a parent out of a household and putting them in jail hurts the future of that child both during and post incarceration. Is your childrens welfare more important or are their children already scum by association?
          Finally, consider that the $300 plus per day cost per inmate could be used for rehabilitation and education leading to some socially productive end results.
          Australia was built on the backs of those considered lesser by those of high society, so less stones in the glass house please.

          I've been a steady poly-drug 'addict' since 14 years of age (my 58th birthday occurs next month) . I'm proud to state that regardless of my proclivity to use psychoactive substances, I've been happily, continuously employed for just under 41 years, always full-time, in a highly responsible, demanding, senior 'professional' career role. I'm told that my workplace colleagues would never, ever, guess or even suspect I've used any drug aside perhaps from aspirin or antibiotics! Needless to say I've NEVER received any form of social security payment what-so-ever. I've never stolen from anyone. I've always purchased drugs, and funded my mortgage too, using my very hard-earned wages. Every year since 1976 I've filed an Australian Income Tax Return. I hope I'm never in a position to need the 'dole', but don't you think I might be entitled to a short period of financial relief after my contribution(s)--and I'd prefer not to endure mandatory urinalysis to get it? Everyone's an individual, we're all unique with our own sets of problems, struggles and issues---so please resist urges to stereotype minorities, including patients suffering from a medically illness called addiction.

      Some of you people are quick to say throw the drug users in jail they are bludging off tax payers. Thats isna very unthought out comment. Yes throw them in jail great instead of costing tax payers $13,000 a year in unemployment benifet it now cost about $180,000 and that is what it costs to keep just one prisoner in jail for a year. Throw tyem all in jail haha tax payers tax may go up 50% to pay cost of prisoners.

    Where is the plan for getting people jobs, for full employment?

      None, they would rather punish the poor for being poor than actually help them.

      How are we supposed to feel good about ourselves without having poor people to look down on?

    A person with some humanity.

    Full time employment is not the answer either. Remember in the world of business - “even at minimum wage it’s more than your worth”. Were talking about a group of people who think paying $2 an hour is too much and replaced those Chinese with Machines that consume 35c an hour of electricity.

    Honestly, some of those high and unemployed now are probably from the Holden factory because they can’t find another job and need stress relief. Yeah it is the Poor fault for being unemployed.

    The Australian Govt has lost its humanity.

      The discussion is about drug testing people on unemployment benefits.

      Not all disadvantaged people are addicts. Plenty of employed people are addicts too - but they use their own money, not the state's.

      The ex holden employees could probably afford that for a while with their six figure payouts.

    It's about time. Growing up in low income areas with most on Clink all you see is people punching cones and smashing out the shabs.

    For better or worse, illicit and not medically required prescription drugs are illegal. No one has any 'right' to take them, any usage is a deliberate choice with the knowledge of repercussions both legal and physical. Like many other people, I am often subjected to random and scheduled drug testing for my job. The main reason for this is other peoples safety, then my own and property - incidents cost money - but i'm also happy that I'm less likely to suffer the consequences of someone else's actions. If I were to get caught I would lose my job. I agree with this and I agree that, consequences aside, it is step that should be taken with welfare.
    Will it stop people finding work-a-rounds? Of course not. Like locking a door, you are only keeping the honest people out, but do you legalise theft just because someone will always steal? I don't think so.

      I imagine you could still get drunk on the job and pass your piss test, is that better? no it's not. Why are some drugs legal even encouraged and others aren't. I agree with you though that this does need to happen.

    If you ask me this isn't going to accomplish anything. People like my neighbours who have 4 kids (and apparently a 5th coming) live in housing commission & abuse drugs & sell them are only going to sell more drugs if pushed onto something like that.

    I also know one mate his dad has eye & pain problems, he likes an occasional joint to ease things, someone like him would be scrutinised as well. It's a dumb idea.

      The solution to that is to legalise marajuana, at least medically (and see if he meets the criteria to use it for analgesia - or if there's something else he can be on).

      But there's zero reason for people to be doing heroin and amphetamines - which is likely to be the primary target of this campaign.

        For sure. We might get there one day, until then however.

        I'm not going to argue, but people will always do something when told not to & will always find a way around things.

          They will. But we shouldn't pay them welfare to enable them to do so.

    Not all people who take drugs are drug abusers.

    What about someone who lost their job, is finding it hard to find another job, claims welfare, and likes to smoke half a joint every day to relax (same effect as having a glass of wine or 2)?

    They aren't abusing the system, they're not abusing the drug, they're not abusing others - and yet they will be discriminated against.

    It's not the government's business what people do in their own homes. Have you people forgotten that the government should be for the people? Not trying to control every little aspect of our lives?

    Sure there's people who abuse the system, but they should be given extra attention and help - you don't know what kind of life someone has had. Sometimes people are dealt a shit hand of cards and don't end up as 'stable' as most of us.

    People need to stop being so judgemental.

      The problem is when there is one person legitimately down on their luck there's 10 people abusing the system.
      No matter what you do there unfortunately will be collateral damage. But what's the other option, do nothing?
      I know some one on disability pension who is looking for work but struggling because she's been out of work for so long. She's in a share house with 1 drug addiction and 3 compulsive gamers all who have no intention of ever getting a job. I'm more than happy to help my mate whose actually trying but I in no way want to fund the other 4. So what do you do? There's no easy answer.

    if the welfare recipients money is government or taxpayers money then employees wages are the companies money, and what business wants to see their money going towards getting their employees drunk and stoned and potentially dangerous to coworkers or the public if, for example, they operate machinery.
    smug working people saying its a good idea because 'those bludgers' can look forward to enjoying cashless wage cards very soon.

      Companies are designed to make profit, Governments are meant to serve society as a whole.
      For example, the minerals in the ground are the property of every Australian citizen, as are the profits from selling them. (or they would be if they weren't being given away for next to nothing)

        Thats an interesting point, and youre still well on the way to getting a cashless wage card.

    I'm concerned about the unintended consequences:

    1) Conditional cash systems are always going to be more restrictive than cash systems, as you can't invest or purchase many things as required (they're often restricted to only a few stores and a limited number of products). Assuming not every person who gets caught in this isn't an unrepentant welfare-cheating drug addict and may instead be the more likely occasional user unaware of the policy, this will likely keep people on welfare more than necessary.

    Plus, as there is a huge debilitating effect on confidence the longer a person is unemployed, this could result in more people become long-term unemployed.

    2) Drug addicts are likely to be mentally I'll in other ways and forcing people in these circumstances to go cold turkey could have a number of consequences. For instance: they could turn to crime to get the money for their fix, they could become violent or (more) unstable and lash out towards themselves or others around them, they could avoid welfare altogether and the system might lose the ability to try and help them get over their issues.

    I get the impression that people are assuming that the drug abuse caused the unemployment, but there is every possibility that the depression and unhappiness that are very strongly linked to long-term unemployment causes people to develop drug abuse problems. Stopping these people from taking drugs likely won't make them more employable, the underlying issues should be resolved first.

    The cost of the testing is "commercial in confidence".
    Anyone hoping this will *save* taxpayer's money is sadly ignorant of how these "smack the people" schemes actually go down.
    It might scare some folks into getting paid work...those able to, but it will not save any taxpayer money.
    I'd also like to see the stats on crime as it is rolled out.

    Picture this, if you have a job: your boss at work approaches you and says "wow life on the dole looks really bad now, bet you wouldnt want to end up there. How about a cut in your pay?" While you have to spend more driving further to work each day to avoid all the homeless people.

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