Canning MP Andrew Hastie has slammed the City of Mandurah following criticism by council of a plan to drug test job seekers, saying the community could not “afford to stick our heads in the sand” and pretend drug abuse is not an issue.
At a special meeting on Tuesday night, councillors vented frustration at the federal government plan to conduct the trial in Mandurah, complaining they had not been consulted and the drug tests would “demonise” the unemployed.
Coastal ward councillor Fred Riebeling called on Mr Hastie to focus on creating jobs in the region and securing more federal funding for city projects.
But Mr Hastie hit back, saying he was disappointed the council had responded so negatively to news about the drug test trial.
“The struggle with drug abuse in Mandurah is well known, and we can’t afford to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not an issue,” he said.
“The drug testing trial has the potential to not only identify welfare recipients who are struggling with drug abuse, but also provide them with the treatment they need to get clean and get a job.
“It stops taxpayers’ money going to drug dealers, but more importantly, the program allocates an additional $10 million to support government services that will be treating people who test positive for illicit drug use.”
Mr Hastie said he welcomed the contribution to the debate by Mayor Marina Vergone, Deputy Mayor Darren Lee and councillors David Schumacher, Peter Jackson and Ron Wortley, but said the council and the City’s chief executive were out of touch with the community.
“This drug testing trial has the potential to make a real difference,” he said.
“It’s the latest step I’m taking with federal government to address drug abuse in our region, in addition to funding the Peel Youth Medical Service Health Hub and the Mandurah headspace.
“I completely agree with the council that we need more jobs in our region. Fortunately, the government is capable of doing more than one thing at once.”
Responding to criticism that City of Mandurah councillors had not been consulted about the drug testing trial, Mr Hastie said only Mayor Vergone had contacted his office for more information since the announcement.
The job seeker drug test trial is due to start in Mandurah in January.