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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10259

Welfare Reform


Mr VAN MANEN (FordeGovernment Whip) (15:02): My question is to the Minister for Human Services. Will the minister update the House on the government's approach to identifying welfare recipients with substance abuse issues and support them to pursue treatment and overcome barriers to employment, and are there any alternative approaches?


Mr TUDGE (AstonMinister for Human Services) (15:03): I thank the member for Forde for his question. As members would be aware, from early next year the government will undertake drug-testing trials in three locations around the country, including in the member for Forde's electorate, and the member has been a very strong advocate of these drug-testing trials. Under the trials, an unemployed person who tests positive the first time will have 80 per cent of their payments placed onto a system of cashless welfare. By doing so, they'll obviously have less cash available to purchase drugs.

We know from our cashless welfare card locations that such a system of cashless welfare can actually reduce drug taking. Indeed, an independent evaluation of our cashless welfare card trials found that half of all drug takers were using fewer drugs as a result of being placed onto a cashless welfare card. They were using drugs less frequently and they were taking drugs less overall. The evidence also showed that there was consequently a reduction in the harm and the violence which results from drug taking, and our expectation is that in the drug-testing trials, by placing a person who tests positive onto a cashless welfare card system, we'll get similar results: people will take fewer drugs and therefore they'll be better able to get into the employment system.

Now, are there any alternatives?

Well, the Labor Party, Mr Speaker, as you would know, have explicitly opposed the drug-testing trials, in large part because it places a person onto a system of cashless welfare. But, interestingly enough, the Labor Party did not always have such a position, because, when they were last in government, the Labor Party actually introduced a measure which placed people onto a special form of welfare when the Northern Territory drug and alcohol tribunal found that a person was taking drugs. And what sort of welfare would that tribunal have placed them on, with the blessing of the Labor Party? Cashless welfare. Indeed, the member for Jagajaga, who introduced this legislation, said at the time that this new measure would assist the referred person to address alcohol and substance misuse issues. She said that cashless welfare had 'discernible benefits', including less money being spent on drugs. So apparently cashless welfare was a great response for drug users under the Labor Party, but apparently it's a dreadful response now. Not only are they hypocritical, but they do a disservice to those people who need our assistance, and the only people that they're planning on assisting are the drug dealers.