Riverina reacts to welfare drug testing

Parts of the federal government’s controversial plan to drug test welfare applicants has come under fire by medical professionals and Riverina residents alike. 

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However, a Daily Advertiser poll asked more than 280 readers after Tuesday’s federal budget announcement, ‘Is drug testing welfare applicants a positive move’, with majority of readers voting yes. 

More than 67 per cent of readers voted in support of the welfare reforms, while more than 30 per cent of people voted against. 

Wagga’s Craig Andrews took to Facebook to share his thoughts, insisting welfare reforms would go hand-in-hand with drug testing job applicants. 

“If I have to pass a drug test to remain in employment, why shouldn't a welfare recipient be expected to do the same?” Mr Andrews said. 

Currawarna resident Denise Crew said employees were tested for entirely different reasons. 

“Drug testing for employees makes sense, it would be unsafe for a lot of employer's to have staff with poor judgement and in a compromised mental state,” Ms Crew said. 

“Drug testing people on welfare is only helpful if we plan to help them.” 

Ms Crew said drug testing should be extended to all welfare applicants, rather than the proposed Newstart and Youth Allowance. 

“It’s completely discriminatory to only test one demographic of the community," Ms Crew said. 

“The testing is a positive thing if the government can guarantee support and help alongside it, otherwise it just makes the problem worse.” 

Ms Crew said the welfare reforms were a “temporary fix” that wouldn’t work in isolation. 

“We need to treat the addiction, not punish the addict,” Ms Crew said. 

“The money would be better spent on funding or professional help for these people.” 

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president, Dr Ewen McPhee, said a drug testing trial wouldn’t improve job seekers outcomes. 

“Those that do have problems will not be helped by measures that feel punitive, such as switching them to a cashless debit card, rather than payments,” Dr McPhee said. 

“Tough love is rarely successful in treating substance abuse.” 

The association has called for a review of the reform with specialist consultancy, questioning the training of those who would carry out the tests. 

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