Federal government reintroduces drug testing for welfare recipients

Welfare recipients will have their payments cancelled if they refuse a drug test in the Coalition’s welfare drug test trial, the Federal Government has warned.

The government reintroduced legislation to parliament on Wednesday that would enable drug-testing of 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.

In introducing the legislation, the Coalition said substance abuse is “not consistent with community expectation about receiving taxpayer-funded welfare payments.”

It said that people on Centrelink payments will not lose their payments if they fail the test, but will be placed on income management.

They would be moved on to cashless welfare cards, resulting in 80 per cent of their payments not accessible in cash.

Anyone who fails the test twice would be provided with drug counselling.

However, the government also said in explanatory notes accompanying the bill, that recipients who refused to take the test would have their payment cancelled from the first day the test is refused.

The trial will take place over two years at Canterbury-Bankstown in NSW, Logan in Queensland and Mandurah in WA.

“The community has the right to expect that taxpayer-funded welfare payments are not being used to fund drug and alcohol addiction” government minister Ben Morton said.

Peak health and welfare group representatives have spoken out against the tests in Canberra, urging MPs and senators to plug existing shortfalls in the drug and alcohol sector.

They said that the system was already at capacity, calling for an extra $1.2 billion in annual funding to meet demand.

Labor social services spokesperson Linda Burney said the opposition would not support the laws, calling them “punitive” and “unworkable,” joining the Greens.

The opposition is also against the government’s desires to roll out cashless welfare cards across the country.

The government has not yet revealed drat laws for the cards, but Government Services Minister Stuart Robert introduced legislation to the lower house on Wednesday to extend trials of the card in existing location s until June 2021.

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