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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3619

Welfare Reform


Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:47): My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. Could the minister update the Senate on what the government is doing to assist people on welfare to find a job, particularly those suffering from alcohol and substance addictions?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:48): I thank Senator Brockman for his question. Senators on this side know that the best form of welfare is a job, and that alcohol and substance addictions can, unfortunately, stand in the way. The Turnbull government is ensuring that the welfare system provides strong incentives for people with substance abuse issues to get treatment, rehabilitate and find a job. Since 1 January 2018 all jobseekers are now able to undertake drug or alcohol treatment as an approved activity in their job plan.

Our tax relief passed just this afternoon will benefit those who enter the workforce. The government believes that all Australian taxpayers deserve tax relief. There are more jobs in our economy today than there were before. Since we have come to government over one million jobs have been generated. We are not going to buy into the class envy and the anti-aspirational, anti-job policies of those opposite. The one thing we know, after six years of fiscal vandalism by those opposite, is that they will tax their way—because they spend so much more. Our tax cuts are designed to benefit all taxpayers, especially those who move off welfare and into a job. Our tax package makes sure that someone on the average or less than average wage will not be hit by bracket creep in the future.

Further supporting those moving from welfare to work, the government has also introduced a bill to establish a drug testing trial. The trial will randomly drug test 5,000 new recipients of Newstart allowance and youth allowance over the next two years in Canterbury and Bankstown in New South Wales, Logan in Queensland and Mandurah in Western Australia. This measure is not about punishing people or stripping away payments; it's about assisting people to pursue treatment— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a supplementary question.



Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:50): Could the minister outline how alcohol or substance addiction impacts on employment prospects?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:50): We have seen rates of substance addiction that have been very high for unemployed Australians. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare National Drug Strategy Household Survey, methamphetamine use was 3.1 times higher amongst unemployed people than employed people. These are serious matters and Australians can rest assured that this government recognises the issue and is committed to helping Australians live a better life. Supporting job seekers to overcome their substance abuse will improve their chances of finding a job. This government, as I said, believes that the best form of welfare is a job and the work that we are doing in this space is building on the work of the Turnbull government on the cashless debit card, which was commenced in the Ceduna, the East Kimberley and the Goldfields regions— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a final supplementary question.



Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:51): Could the minister provide any information on exemptions for people in vulnerable circumstances?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:51): From 1 July 2018, income support recipients will no longer be able to be granted an exemption from their mutual obligations or participation requirements if the reason they are unable to meet their obligations is predominantly due to drug or alcohol dependency. Job seekers will still be eligible for exemptions for reasons not related to substance abuse such as domestic violence, homelessness, temporary care responsibilities and declared natural disasters. This measure was passed as part of our welfare reform act. This government is ensuring that the welfare system is providing strong incentives for people with substance abuse issues to get treatment, to get rehabilitated and to help them find a job. We want all Australians to find gainful employment.