Drug tests if you’re on the dole
DRUG testing for the unemployed and the suspension of payments to people with outstanding arrest warrants are two options to be debated in a major overhaul of welfare.
The Abbott Government has confirmed it is looking closely at New Zealand’s welfare system, which includes a hardline approach to drug use.
The New Zealand model strips welfare recipients of half their payments if they fail a job-required drug test or refuse to submit to one.
They are then given 30 days to get clean. Those who continue to use drugs or refuse to take a job that requires testing are required to pay back their welfare payments.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews last night said: “We won’t rule this in or out.”
But the testing has been attacked as a waste of money by critics in New Zealand with low rates of positive results.
Of the 8001 jobseekers sent for drug testing, only 22 had tested positive to drug use or had refused to take tests.
Mr Andrews yesterday cautioned it would be more difficult to introduce in Australia because it would require the support of the states.
“While Australia’s welfare system is different from New Zealand, its reforms provide a guide as to the government’s thinking on simplifying our welfare system,” he said.
The Abbott government has confirmed it is also looking closely at New Zealand’s “simpler, more coherent” system of streamlining payments.
“Australia’s welfare system is complex and expensive,” Mr Andrews said.
“This review will look at welfare reforms overseas, including New Zealand where they have simplified their welfare system by introducing five new payments that replaced eleven old payments.”
The streamlined New Zealand payment system now includes a new Jobseeker Support payment for those actively seeking work, Sole Parent Support for single parents with children aged under 14 years, and Supported Living Payments for people significantly restricted by sickness, injury or disability.
A report by Patrick McClure into options for reforms to Australia’s welfare system will be released shortly.
“There are around 20 different payments (in Australia) that are topped up with around 50 different supplements, including Family Tax Benefits and Carer Allowance, costing taxpayers around $100 billion annually,” Mr Andrews said.
“To make this work requires more than 3500 pages of legislation and more than 640 pages of endnotes to administer the social security system.”
Labor’s Jenny Macklin said welfare simplification was code for more cuts.
“Tony Abbott needs to explain to low-income Australians — already reeling from the Budget — exactly what his next round of cuts will mean for them,” she said.
“This year’s Budget has already ripped billions of dollars out of the pockets of low-income Australians.
“It will leave millions of vulnerable people worse off.
“Yet the government is already looking to its next round of cuts.”