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Australia Trying Out New Plan To Drug Test Welfare Recipients

Australia has one of the most conservative governments that it has had in recent history. That’s why it is really not all that surprising to find out that the Australian government is planning to force all welfare recipients to take a drug test before they get their government payment.

It’s quite understandable that both politicians and average citizens don’t like the idea of giving tax money to people who are on drugs and not trying to move ahead in life. The argument generally goes something like if they’re just going to do drugs and stay on the couch all day, the taxpayer shouldn’t have to pay for their rent or bills.

At least that’s the logic behind this new plan in Australia being unveiled to randomly drug test all welfare recipients.

However, it turns out that many doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals don’t think this mandatory drug testing plan is a good idea. Moreover, this large group of health care professionals have banded together to oppose the conservative government’s decision to drug test those who receive funds from the government.

It seems that hundreds of well-known Australian healthcare professionals signed a letter that went to the Senate inquiry hearing this last Wednesday. The letter warns that instituting this kind of drug test policy would push vulnerable Australians “further into the margins.”

“If we had been consulted, we could have said that people cannot be punished into recovery. Using drug testing to coerce people into treatment treats drug and alcohol problems as some sort of personal failing – not the serious health problem it is,” the letter explains to the Senate inquiry.

Marianne Jauncy, the medical director at Uniting Care, claims nearly 1,000 professionals signed the letter that was written by GetUp, a political activist group.

Apparently, the current count of signees is 327 doctors, 111 addiction specialists and 197 nurses.

“We are drawing on clear international experience when we say that this trial would be ineffective, expensive and counterproductive,” Jauncy noted in describing the group’s opposition to the new drug testing policy.

“Not only will this trial fail to improve people’s chance of employment, which is its stated aim – it has the potential to cause harm by pushing people to the edge and reducing their support.”

Of note, the Australian government recently announced plans to start the drug-testing plan in three sites with high welfare rates. The test areas include sections of in Queensland, Sydney and Western Australia.

As a part of the new policy, the government will randomly test urine and saliva from 5,000 welfare recipients to see if they have been using marijuana, crystal methamphetamine or other drugs.

According to the government statement, if a current welfare recipient fails a drug test, they will be forced onto an income management plan, which restricts 80% of their government funds to be spent only on “basics.”

In the case of a second failed drug test, the welfare recipient will be forced to enter a rehab program and must cover the cost of the drug tests themselves. If the person refuses treatment, the welfare recipient could lose their government benefits.

However, almost all Australian drug researchers and social workers don’t think the new plan will work. They say that the drug tests will simply force people out of the welfare system into crime, creating much greater overall costs for society.

Source: AWM
Photo: AWM

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