OPINION: Crime to replace drug user dole cash

THE housing affordability strategies put forward by Tuesday's Federal Budget was lauded as laughable, but the biggest joke of all has to be the proposed overhaul of welfare - specifically in relation to drug users.

Dole recipients who flunk a drug test will now have their welfare payments limited, so they can only spend money on the essentials - food, housing and utilities.

Further drug test failures will result in a visit to a doctor, who may order rehab and/or medication in order to keep receiving benefits.

In theory this may sound great; taxpayer money isn't being spent on illegal substances and people are still being supported if they really want it.

But what I see is a potential recipe for higher crime rates and a smaller net to catch our most vulnerable.

It is a choice to take drugs, but once an addictive drug takes over someone's life, the concept of choice isn't so simple.

Where a rational person would think to stop taking illicit substances if there was a chance their welfare payments would be cut, a drug-addict would find any means possible to support their habit, even if it means compromising their living situation or turning to crime.

Forced rehabilitation is a whole other matter, but judging by the number of people who appear in Grafton court because they have broken bail by leaving rehab, it may not work so well.

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