Member for Page Kevin Hogan.
Member for Page Kevin Hogan. Susanna Freymark

Hogan gives strong backing for drug testing regime

CONTROVERSIAL moves to drug test welfare recipients have been strongly endorsed by Page MP Kevin Hogan despite misgivings from charities.

On Wednesday the government introduced its drug testing trial bill which would subject 5000 people on Newstart to random drug testing in Mandurah, WA, Logan, QLD and Canterbury-Bankstown, NSW and Mr Hogan said it was all about helping people with an addiction "get off drugs and get their lives back".

Citing a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that found unemployed people use amphetamines and cannabis more than the employed, Mr Hogan said the Government wanted to "break this downward cycle".

"We want to identify and help people with drug issues to get treatment, rehabilitate and get a job," he said.

Mr Hogan emphasised the scheme was just a trial and said it was important for governments to look at new ways to break the cycle of welfare dependency and get people back into work.

However, the bill has come under fire from a variety of agencies, including St Vincent de Paul, that said in a statement the policy deflected attention away from "underlying structural factors that drive inequality and poverty, while scapegoating people who receive income support".

"There is no evidence that mandatory drug testing has any positive effects. It is expensive, discriminatory and stigmatising and does not remove disadvantage," St Vincent de Paul said.

St Vincent de Paul noted that most people who were on income support did not use illicit drugs and around half of Newstart recipients were aged 45 and over.

"According to the 2016 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Drug Strategy Household Survey, (those 45 and over) have some of the lowest rates of illicit drug use," the brief stated."It also appears to be part of a wider agenda to blame people receiving income support for not being able to find work."

But Mr Hogan said the program was "not about punishing people, it is about identifying people who need help" and that while it may seem like a "blunt instrument" the Government would also be investing $10 million to provide treatment options for those who test positive.

"If a person tests positive to drug use twice, a medical professional will look at their circumstances and recommend treatment options."

"We want to help, we don't want them to - especially at a young age - fall into a lifetime of welfare dependency.

"If they are identified to have a drug or alcohol issue there will be rehabilitation services to help them."

Mr Hogan also said he had no issue with being tested himself and pointed out it was common across the private sector in Australia, including in the mining industry.

According to the bill before parliament, those who tested positive would also be put on a cashless welfare card, quarantining 80 per cent of their payment for use only with the card with the other 20 being available in cash.

If a Newstart recipient refused a test they would have their payments cancelled immediately.


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