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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2074

Welfare Reform


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (15:10): My question is to the Minister for Social Services. Will the minister update the House on the government's commitment to roll out measures that help welfare recipients struggling with substance abuse to get off drugs and into work? How does this compare with alternative approaches?


Mr TEHAN (WannonMinister for Social Services) (15:10): I'd like to thank the member for his question and note his advocacy for getting people off welfare and into work. I know it's been a passion of his since he's been in this place.

The coalition knows that the best form of welfare is a job; however, research has consistently shown that one of the worst barriers to getting a job is substance abuse. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey shows that illicit drug use was more prevalent among the unemployed than employed people. Those who are unemployed were 3.1 times more likely to use methamphetamines and 1.5 times more likely to use cannabis. This is why tomorrow the government will introduce measures that will trial drug testing for new welfare recipients in three locations across Australia. If this bill passes, the trial will be rolled out to Logan in Queensland, Canterbury-Bankstown in New South Wales and Mandurah in Western Australia.

The trial is not about taking away payments for those who test positive. This is about helping those people with a problem to get treatment, helping them to help themselves and then get a job. People who are part of the trial and test positive to illicit drugs would have access to treatment and rehabilitation to assist them in getting a job. This is about helping them help themselves into a job. For those people who are medically assessed as having substance abuse issues that will prevent them from getting a job, their treatment will be included in their mutual obligation for welfare payments. We have put in place measures that will safeguard the vulnerable, including people who might also be the victims of domestic violence or homelessness.

We are willing to try new measures and tackle drug abuse and ensure taxpayer money is aimed at getting people off welfare and into work. I say to those opposite: this is a trial. We encourage you to work with us. We want to help these people. We want to make sure that these people can benefit from the 1,100 jobs that are being created a day, that they can benefit from that jobs growth and that they can be part of the successful economy that we are now seeing. This is an opportunity to help them, especially the long-term unemployed, to benefit from the 1,100 jobs we are creating a day.

Mr Turnbull: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.