When a government introduces a measure that will be expensive and which the evidence indicates will not work in the way that the government says it will, it is reasonable to ask is there another agenda.
Minister Porter in his speech introducing the Bill that would allow the drug testing trial said, “The community has a right to expect that taxpayer-funded welfare payments are not being used to fund drug and alcohol addiction.” He used the statistic from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) that unemployed persons were 2.4 times more likely to use drugs such as methamphetamine than those who were employed. While technically correct, it gives the misleading impression that methamphetamines are widely used among unemployed people. The underlying figures (Supplementary data tables: Specific population group tables. Table 8.3) from the AIHW on which Minister Porter relied indicate that 5.6% of unemployed persons were a recent user of methamphetamines compared to 2.3% of employed persons. While this is undoubtedly a serious health problem, it does not indicate wide spread wastage of income support payments on drugs.
This government has consistently and repeatedly tried to cut and restrict income support payments. The St Vincent de Paul Society and other community organisations have consistently opposed those cuts. This so-called trial is simply another attempt to restrict payments, whilst harassing the people who need them.
It also appears to be part of a wider agenda to blame people receiving income support for not being able to find work. This puts the blame for unemployment on those who are the victims of a system that is not currently producing enough paid jobs for everyone. Rather than blaming unemployed people, governments need to be working with the community and the unemployed to create more paid work and more real pathways to employment.