On 22 March 2018, the Senate referred the controversial Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018 (the Bill) to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report.
The Federal Government introduced the Bill into the House of Representatives on 28 February 2018. The Bill proposes to set up a two year trial of drug testing for 5000 people receiving new payments of Newstart and youth allowances payments. The trial is scheduled to start from 1 July 2018.
The Bill aims to identify people looking for jobs with drug abuse issues and then to help them recover so as to be able get a job. The trial proposed by the Bill would operate in three locations around the country, with a fund of up to $10 million to support those seeking jobs who want to access treatment.
The trial will involve a range of measures being applied, these include cancellation of a payment if a person seeking a job refuses to take a drug test and with that a four week wait before they can reapply for a payment. Additionally, a positive drug test result will result in a person seeking a job being placed on "income management", which means their access to cash funds would be limited, however, their payment would not be stopped.
The drug testing trial proposed by the Bill was initially introduced into the Senate as part of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017, which was recently passed by the Senate on 26 March 2018. However, in the Senate it was agreed to remove the proposed drug testing trial from the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 in order to enable the rest of that Bill to pass.
In explaining why the measures proposed by the Bill were required the Minister for Social Services said in his second reading speech:
Introducing the Bill, the Minister for Social Services, said:
In his speech the Minister cites The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey as showing that the unemployed are ". . . three times more likely to have recently used drugs such as ice and other amphetamines than those who were employed." The Minister indicates further that the Governments view is that ". . .for too long, not enough has been done to try and deal with the real connection between drug abuse and unemployment."
As already indicated the Senate agreed to remove the proposed trial of drug testing for job seekers from the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 to a separate Bill. Submissions to the to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee are sought by 11 April 2018 and the reporting date for the Committee is 7 May 2018.
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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018, 2nd Reading Speech and supporting materials as reported in the TimeBase LawOne Service.
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