Mandurah MP David Templeman has criticised the federal government’s plan to run a job seeker drug testing trial in Mandurah, saying it will “trash the Mandurah brand” and increase crime and homelessness.
The plan, which will mean 750 new welfare recipients would be tested for drugs, was announced on the weekend by Social Services Minister Christian Porter and Canning MP Andrew Hastie.
Under the plan, job seekers testing positive to drugs would risk losing payments if they did not attend treatment appointments.
But Mr Templeman said this would “hit children the hardest, as they are the ones who will miss out on food and other necessities as a result”.
“I know there will be many people who think this is a good idea, but I think we have to look carefully at it,” he said.
“What we need in Mandurah is jobs and an investment into the future but we already know the federal government failed to commit $19 million to the Transform Peel initiative, which will create hundreds of jobs for the region.
“But I am particularly peeved that the federal government and local federal member continue to trash the Mandurah brand, which does nothing to instil confidence and ultimately impacts on the identity of our community.
“This is a magnificent community that doesn’t need any more negative labels, which is implied by this announcement.”
Mr Templeman said it was time to “stand up for Mandurah” and promote the positive aspects of the community.
Mr Hastie rejected the claim the government was damaging Mandurah’s image and asked what Mr Templeman and the state government were doing to solve to drug problem plaguing the community.
“We need to clean Mandurah up and pretending the problem isn’t there is the equivalent of sticking your head in the sand,” he said.
“We’ve actually got a policy solution; it’s a trial and we’re going to be open minded about the results, but we’re at least taking action.
“He is the member for Mandurah, what’s he doing as a state minister to fix this problem?”
Mr Hastie reacted angrily to the accusation children would go hungry because of the plan, saying those with positive tests would not lose income, but go on a cashless welfare card.
“In fact, we’re actually protecting children by making sure that the welfare paid into their parents’ accounts is spent only on basics like food and rent and things essential to their well-being,” he said.
“I would say to David Templeman, we’re not looking after children if we let this current situation continue.
“I would much prefer welfare payments going to children’s basic needs rather than to drug dealers.”
Council to hold special meeting on drug test plan
The City of Mandurah’s Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday night to formulate its position on the federal government proposal.
Mayor Marina Vergone wrote on social media that she was disappointed Mandurah had been chosen as a trial site, calling for the random drug testing to be immediately implemented across the country.
She said she had been been “falsely quoted” in media reports as saying council supported the plan.
“As a council, we only found out about this plan from the press,” she said, despite attending the announcement with Mr Porter and Mr Hastie on Sunday.
“No consultation, no briefing until next week, no warning of the announcement.”
A spokeswoman for the City of Mandurah said the Council’s public meeting on Tuesday would commence at 6.30pm.
Mandurah’s community reacts
As of midday on Wednesday, 523 people had voted in the Mandurah Mail’s online poll about job seeker drug testing and hundreds had commented on social media about the proposal.
In the online poll, 74.95 percent of people said Mandurah job seekers should be drug tested, with 25.05 per cent against.