CANBERRA -- Arguably the most controversial aspect of the 2017 budget is a plan to drug test 5000 welfare recipients, and move them onto the cashless debit card or other income management if they test positive. In response, citizens, experts and even politicians say that members of our federal parliament should be drug tested, too.
The surprise plan, announced in Tuesday's budget, will see 5000 people on the Newstart and Youth Allowance payments included in a trial drug testing program from January 2018. The program is said to include "random" tests, but also "based on a data-driven profiling tool... to identify relevant characteristics that indicate a higher risk of substance abuse issues." So maybe not so "random" in effect.
The idea behind the testing is to stop people using their welfare payments for drugs. But soon after the plan was announced, many were quick to offer their own idea for targeting drug testing at some other people who are paid by the government -- namely, politicians and their staff.
It was a popular response.
Alex Wodak, the president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, has come out strongly against the plan to drug test welfare recipients. However, even he gave some tongue-in-cheek support for testing our politicians too.
There was also some political support for the plan to test politicians.
In interviews with HuffPost Australia on Tuesday, both Labor's Sam Dastyari and Greens
senator Sarah Hanson-Young voiced support for the idea of submitting themselves and their colleagues to drug testing. Hanson-Young said: "I'd like to see how that goes."
"We should have a booze bus outside the Senate doors on Thursday mornings... there will be some people who come into this place with, I reckon, their blood alcohol level quite well over what you'd expect for somebody coming to work," she told HuffPost Australia.
Dastyari joked "most of my friends... I think you're all in trouble".
On Wednesday, senator Jacqui Lambie came out strongly in favour of such a plan to drug test politicians, and even joked that journalists entering Parliament House should be subjected to the same screening.
"I called for this about two and a half years ago when I first come up here. It would be nice to see Parliament leading by example and do drug testing at their own doors," she told the ABC.
"They're paid by the taxpayer, public servants and politicians; they could be doing random drug tests at the doors and leading by example and that way they won't get so much flak."
She made similar comments during several other interviews through the morning,
"There's no reason we can't do random drug testing here [in parliament]... let's lead by example," she told Sky News.
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