Canning MP Andrew Hastie and Social Services Minister Dan Tehan announced $10 million in funding for a national drug testing trial in Mandurah on Wednesday.
Mandurah – along with Canterbury-Bankstown in Sydney and Logan in Brisbane – is one of three locations chosen for the two-year trial if it passes the Senate.
Under the trial, 5000 new recipients of Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance would be drug tested and offered treatment if needed.
The funding will include $1 million for case management services for those who test positive more than once, $3 million to boost drug treatment capacity in the three trial sites, and $6 million for additional accredited treatment support, in the event state or Commonwealth-funded services cannot be accessed in a timely manner.
Mr Hastie said the trial was a unique opportunity for Mandurah and had great potential.
“A couple of weeks ago the Minister for Law Enforcement Angus Taylor was here to announce the wastewater results and it showed that regional Western Australia is using more ice than anywhere else in the country so there is no doubt that regional WA needs assistance,” he said.
“I'm really glad the $10 million has been committed to helping those who are identified through the drug trial.
“And as the Member for Canning, I represent Mandurah; I will be fighting hard to get a few of those million dollars, direct to service providers on the ground here.
“Service providers who are local, know the area best. They're closest to the action and I would like to see some of that Federal money empower them so they can help people turn their lives around and get into the workforce, which is the whole point of this drug testing trial.”
Mr Hastie stressed that no one would lose their welfare out of the program, “but if your refuse to take a drug test, you’ll find yourself in trouble”.
“That’s no different to many jobs,” he said.
“A lot of FIFO workers in Mandurah take drug tests routinely when they get onto their work sites. As an ADF serivceman in my previous career, I took drug tests overseas on operations and local City of Mandurah employees take drug tests so I don't see why we should have a double standard here for people seeking unemployment benefits.”
Mr Tehan said the government had recently reintroduced its drug testing trial legislation into the parliament and called on Labor and the crossbench to support it.
“It is incredibly important that we can do all we can to assist those who are unemployed, beat their addiction and get them back in to work,” he said. “We say the best form of welfare is a job. Well, what these trials are about is ensuring that we can give people the opportunities to beat their addiction and then seek employment.
“Doing nothing is no longer an option. Doing nothing is not helping Australians to address a drug problem and get off welfare and into work.”
The number of income support recipients in WA who tried to claim drug or alcohol use as an excuse for not meeting their mutual obligations increased by 475 per cent over five years, with 1075 applications submitted in 2017.