The government has been forced to abandon its plan to drug test Centrelink recipients on Newstart and Youth Allowance, after Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon Team refused to lend it their support in the Senate on Monday.
The proposed drug-testing policy, which was set to begin in January 2018, included a two-year trial in three locations for 5,000 new recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance. Those on Newstart or Youth Allowance who lived in the trial locations and returned "an initial positive drug test" for marijuana, ice, or ecstasy would have their payments downgraded and “quarantined” onto a Cashless Debit Card. If a welfare recipients tested positive a second time, they would be referred to a medical professional.
The Senate crossbench was reluctant to support the model, with most crossbenchers citing the fact that similar drug testing schemes in Canada, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand saw little success. In 2013, a report funded by the Australian Government found drug testing welfare recipients was not only ineffective in curbing drug addictions or helping people find work, but also highly unethical.
One Senator, David Leyonhjelm, felt the scheme didn’t go far enough—he wanted Centrelink recipients to be tested for alcohol, too. Okay.
Numerous experts from organisations including the Youth Support and Advocacy Service, Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, and Harm Reduction Australia told VICE back in May they thought the Federal Government's proposal wouldn't work.
While the plan is shelved for now, this might not be the last we see of it. Social Services Minister Christian Porter told parliament that he may reintroduce the policy if he finds support for it later on.
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