When Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the government’s plans to randomly drug test 5,000 people on welfare from January 2018, I turned to my partner – a square of chocolate pinned between my teeth – and mouthed “good”.
The trial is, in part, looking to crack down on welfare-fuelled substance abuse and addiction, and promises to catch those trying to “take an easy ride” on government payouts.
The selected dole recipients in three locations around the country will face a “three-strike” demerit point system and be tested for marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamines, including ice.
Failure of the first test will see recipients of welfare placed on a cashless debit card, which restricts them from purchasing alcohol, gambling or withdrawing cash. A second positive test will get them a referral to a doctor for substance abuse treatment. Failing a third test will result in the cancellation of their $535.60 a fortnight payment, which they can apply for again after one month.
Under the new plan, drug addicted individuals will also no longer qualify for the disability support pension (a maximum of $808.30 a fortnight) for their substance abuse problems.