Labor voters back welfare drug tests in Sydney’s west
THE federal government's plan to drug test jobseekers is supported by the vast majority of Labor voters - despite their party opposing it - and is even backed by welfare recipients in the proposed NSW trial site.
The findings have emerged after a leading addiction expert compared the plan to Russia seeking to screen all citizens for HIV in the 1990s and put those who came up positive on an island.
A national YouGovGalaxy survey for The Daily Telegraph reveals 70 per cent approval for the proposal to screen 5000 new Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients in Canterbury-Bankstown, Logan in Queensland and Mandurah in Western Australia for heroin, cocaine, ecstasy cannabis and ice. Those who fail the test would have 80 per cent of their welfare payments put on a card that could not be used to buy drugs. People who red light a second screening 25 days later would receive addiction treatment from a new $10 million fund.
The YouGovGalaxy survey showed 63 per cent of Labor voters favour the plan.
A straw poll by The Telegraph outside Bankstown Centrelink also found strong backing for the proposal.
This support is at odds with the view of the local mayor, Labor's Khal Asfour, who has said the trial is a "joke" and that the area is being picked on.
Among 14 people currently or previously on Newstart or Youth Allowance, nine backed the trial, three were undecided and two opposed.
Brooke Masmela, of Padstow, believed it was a good idea.
"I think it's fair because it's taxpayers' money," Ms Masmela, a full-time mother who previously received Newstart, said.
"If they are good enough to help you then you need to be legit."
Opposition spokeswoman on social services Linda Burney, whose electorate covers part of the proposed trial area, said "Labor has and will be guided by the experts and the evidence who have said with one voice that this is a blunt and ineffective instrument and does not work".
Top addiction expert, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians' Adrian Reynolds, told a Senate inquiry earlier this month the government's plan sent a "shiver" down his spine.
"I once worked with the United Nations in Russia … they were going to test everyone for HIV/AIDS and those who came up positive were going to be placed on an island. This reminds me of that experience … 20 something years ago," Associate Professor Reynolds said.
He did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said more than 3.5 million Australians underwent random drug tests as part of their employment.
The trial would help to ensure jobseekers were eligible for every role offered.
Ms Ruston said the trial would collect evidence to see if it was possible to help people overcome drug use "which we know is a barrier to work".
"The taxpayer has the right to expect their money is being spent responsibly," Ms Ruston said.
The government's best hope of getting the trial bill through parliament is convincing Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie.
Initially she said she would vote in favour of the bill before reversing her position, saying politicians should be tested too. She also wants more rehabilitation services established first.