'A good plan' - Andrew Hastie backs drug testing for Mandurah welfare recipients

Plan backed: Canning MP Andrew Hastie is supportive of a federal government plan in which Mandurah welfare recipients were drug tested. Photos: Supplied.
Plan backed: Canning MP Andrew Hastie is supportive of a federal government plan in which Mandurah welfare recipients were drug tested. Photos: Supplied.

Mandurah's welfare recipients could soon be drug tested as part of a federal government initiative, with the Peel city selected as one of three locations across Australia for a potential 24-month trial.

The idea was first floated by the commonwealth in 2017 and has now been resurrected, with debate in Parliament on the issue this week.

The trial would see Mandurah welfare recipients that tested positive for prohibited substances directed to counselling sessions and support services.

Their welfare would also be delivered via cashless welfare cards.

However, the trial is still hanging in the balance after Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie refused to back it until more rehabilitation services were made available.

Canning MP Andrew Hastie said he supported the initiative.

"I'm very pleased the government has reintroduced this legislation," he said.

"It's a good plan and, like many in our community, I support it.

"Fundamentally this program is about identifying jobseekers who might be struggling with drug abuse to make sure they get the help they need.

"By opposing this plan Labor and the Greens are saying it's unreasonable to ask jobseekers on Centrelink to undergo the same random drug test that they would in the workforce."

Mr Hastie said he backed Mandurah, along with Logan in Queensland and Canterbury-Bankstown in New South Wales, being used as a test case in the trial.

"Polling done by the Mandurah Mail when the government previously tried to introduce this program suggested that 70 per cent of locals were in support of the trial in Mandurah," he said.

"We all know our community faces big challenges from drug abuse.

"This trial is about looking at another way to deal with that problem, and it's just that - a trial.

"It will mean more people in our community receive medical assistance to help overcome substance abuse.

"Of course we should give it a go."

Ms Lambie coined the idea of politicians being drug tested as part of the trial. Mr Hastie said he would happily participate if this meant the trial going ahead.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the trial was designed to help people struggling with substance addiction.

"Not one cent of their welfare payments will be reduced," she said.

"What we will seek to do is to put them onto a card, an income management card, that will require 80 per cent of their income to be quarantined and not accessible in cash."

The return of the potential trial has sparked national debate, with criticism of the idea in some corners.

Australian Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services Senator Rachel Siewert said she strongly condemned the plan.

"The evidence indicates that this 'tough love' approach actually entrenches disadvantage and poverty rather than addressing underlying barriers," she said.

"I'm frankly gobsmacked that the government could even think of introducing this legislation, which flies in the face of the medical evidence."

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