POLITICS

Turnbull's Measure Of Success To See 'One Person Off Drugs And Into Work'

Queensland's Logan City has been announced as the second welfare drug trial site.

23/08/2017 11:14 AM AEST | Updated 23/08/2017 11:14 AM AEST
Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax
Malcolm Turnbull: "If this gets one person off drugs and into work, it is a good thing."

CANBERRA -- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has revealed a measure of success for the controversial welfare drug trial for job-seekers his government is attempting to set up, saying, "If this gets one person off drugs and into work, it is a good thing".

The three sites -- including Wednesday's announcement of the second trial site in Logan City in Queensland -- are being revealed despite the Government still working to get Senate support for the legislation to support the two-year trials.

"I think anything we can do to get people who are on welfare, off drugs and into a job, that it is best most loving, supportive thing we can do," the Prime Minister told Triple M Brisbane. "Let's hope it is a big success.

"If this gets one person off drugs and into a job, it is a good thing. The best form of welfare is a job.

"And obviously if you are on drugs you are not going to be employable."

About 2500 new Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients will be tested in suburbs throughout Logan over two years. The Turnbull Government said Logan was chosen because of a high incidence of drug use and it has existing support infrastructure for drug dependency and income management.

Labor and the Greens are firmly opposed to the trial program as an expensive waste of time.

Welfare and drug experts are also questioning the worth of such a program which the Government wants to start in January. There are also privacy concerns about a positive test result staying on a person's permanent record, but the Government insists drug test results will be private.

"Drug use every where is too high in Australia," Turnbull said.

This statement was followed with the host's suggestion, "Test everyone!"

Turnbull paused, but said, "That is why experiments and trials like this are important. The Government I lead is innovative. We are prepared to do new things and the sensible way to go about new policies is obviously, where you can, to trial them."

The overall plan, to put 5000 recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance on to a trial program to screen them for drugs including marijuana, ecstacy and methamphetamines, was announced in the May budget.

Just one positive test result will see jobseekers placed onto compulsory income management with the BasicsCard for 24 months. A second drug test is then scheduled within 25 working days of their initial positive result.

A BasicsCard will hold aside 80 per cent of a fortnightly welfare payment for essentials such as rent, childcare, food, school uniforms and household needs. The other 20 per cent will go into the regular bank account and would be accessible as cash.

The unemployed would also be able to count drug rehabilitation towards work activity.

The targeting of Logan comes a day after Canterbury-Bankstown in south-western Sydney was chosen as the first trial site because of the high level of welfare sign-up in the area and increasing use of ice and ice-related hospitalisations.

The Mayor of Logan City, Luke Smith, has complained bitterly he was not consulted, but the Prime Minister said it was a federal program, so it was not something to involve the local council.

"I hope as he learns more about it, the Mayor will support it," Turnbull said.

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