Sydney's west targeted for welfare drug test trial

Debate surrounds new welfare measure (WikiCommons)

Welfare recipients in Sydney's southwest could be randomly tested for drugs from the start of next year, the Sydney Morning Herald/AAP reports.

The federal government is poised to announce Canterbury-Bankstown as the first of three locations for a controversial drug testing trial of new job seekers because of the high number of new welfare entrants and increasing ice-fuelled hospitalisations in the area.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the trial is focused on helping jobseekers overcome drug problems and secure work.

"It is not about penalising or stigmatising people who have a barrier to employment which is as serious as drug abuse," Mr Porter said.

"We want to help people in this situation. Failure to do so simply leaves people at risk of a cycle of welfare dependency."

The government plans to roll out the two-year trial across three sites from January, with about 5000 people affected including roughly 1750 from Canterbury-Bankstown.

The plan, which has been widely criticised by welfare advocates and medical groups since it was announced in the May budget, will test new Centrelink entrants for illicit substances including ice, ecstasy and marijuana.

Anyone who tests positive will be shunted on to cashless welfare cards with their payments quarantined, while those who fail more than once will be referred to medical professionals for assessment and treatment.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that senator Pat Dodson has described the cashless welfare card as a “public whip” designed to control Indigenous people and said the federal government should focus on holistic solutions to problems of alcohol, drug addiction and violence in remote communities.

“I’m not convinced that it’s the solution to anything,” he said. “It may be a short-term measure that’s an extreme measure, in the same way that you incarcerate people as a short-term measure to get people off the streets. But that doesn’t work.”


Canterbury-Bankstown named among locations for welfare drug test trial (SMH/AAP)

Pat Dodson says cashless welfare card a 'public whip' to control Indigenous people (The Guardian)

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