Random drug testing for unemployed people 'discriminatory'

A RESOLUTION to make long-term unemployed people undergo random testing for illicit drugs was labelled demoralising and discriminatory as the Young LNP tried to argue it was no different to roadside RBTs.

Deborah Smith, from the Young LNP, said long-term unemployed Australians, who had been receiving welfare benefits for more than a year, should be tested to ensure "welfare is given only to those how need it the most".

She said the number of people unemployed for longer than 12 months had risen from 70,000 to 126,000 in the past six years and there was growing resentment from the working Australian public.

Ms Smith said this was not about demonising welfare recipients but developing a system would identify those not in a "fit state" for employment, who might be isolated from society and allow for rehabilitation.

"The last thing we want to see in this society is for long-term unemployed languishing on payments in an unbroken cycle of drug dependency as a result of having slipped through the cracks," she said.

"This isn't about cutting off people's payments; I would like to see a system where people are given chances to attend rehabilitation programs or given a chance to get clean before it comes to removing any payments."

Ms Smith said systems in the United States came at little cost to government because they only had to pay for the tests if they were negative.

Dr Meredith Smith, from Southport branch, said she was a pharmacist and toxicologist who spent several days a week visiting the "poor, unemployed and those who need a hand up".

She was cheered and applauded when she described the move as "discriminatory".

"If you want to catch people using drugs then you should be applying the drug testing to whole population, the same as we provide the drug driving to the whole population," she said.

"The way we treat our poor is the measure of a just society.

"It will leave a bad smell for the LNP if it goes out.

"It will be seen as demonising a section of the population.

"It will not be seen as a harm minimisation measure but it will be seen as an attack on our poor."

Natalie Davis, from the Broadwater South branch, said she had come across many older people who lost their jobs or were made redundant because of the Global Financial Crisis that were too young for the pension and forced onto unemployment because no one would hire them.

She said long-term unemployment was already demoralising without adding the further stigma of a drug test.

Joshua Anderson, from Toowoomba North branch, said there was a class of people who used welfare to subsidise their lifestyles, sometimes involving drugs.

"If you do not use drugs you have nothing to be concerned about," he said.

"It's similar to drink-driving, if you have not been drinking you have nothing to fear being pulled over for an RBT.

"It's not to target people who need welfare for circumstances beyond their control."

Bill Vaughn said drug testing should come in, not just for "weed or heroin" but for the people abusing prescription drugs who were "massively impinging on the viability of the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme)".

A police committee chair said he believed the testing regime cost would "far outweigh the benefits one would get".

He said there was strong evidence that the larger users of illegal drugs were those gainfully employed.

The resolution lost when put to a vote.



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