The Turnbull government’s attempt to deliver a Labor budget still hasn’t improved their position in the polls as revealed today. Of course, this still hasn’t pleased the leftist media and activists who will still criticise anything a conservative government does. They are especially upset over the budget measure to trial drug testing of 5,000 welfare recipients. There has been a lot of fake news about this policy that those who fail will automatically have their welfare benefits cut, the truth is that their welfare payments will be quarantined to cashless debit cards and they will be referred to treatment programs. That is hardly leaving drug addicts to fend for themselves on the streets.
The worst propagator of fake news about this policy is the ABC. They broadcast a story on their AM program and followed that up with an online news article claiming that the policy would be a failure because as similar policy was enacted in New Zealand. But rather than find an objective person to comment on New Zealand’s policy they chose a representative from the New Zealand Drug Foundation which advocates for drug law reform and harm minimisation, of course they won’t like the policy.
Their main criticism appears to be that the policy was too successful. They point out that 95,000 people were tested and only 450 failed. Well if you have widespread drug testing of welfare recipients won’t that incentivise people not to take drugs? However this was dismissed by the policy’s opponents without any real proof instead raging against stigmatisation. What, are we not allowed to say that maybe it’s not a good thing to be on drugs? A lot of employers drug test their employees yet we don’t hear many complaints about that.
There is a key difference however between two countries policies on this issue, in New Zealand drug testing was introduced as part of the pre-employment process which reduced incentives for the private sector to shoulder the cost, while in Australia it is simply part of the requirements of receiving cash welfare.
It is true that drug testing welfare recipients is expensive and testing 95,000 people in New Zealand had costs running into the millions. This is why in Australia drug testing is only beginning with 5,000 recipients. Random drug testing is much more cost effective and still has the desired effect, because if welfare recipients believe they could be drug tested that still acts as a deterrent. An example is random breath tests for drivers, the policy is not of course to have police on every corner as that would be too expensive, but because you don’t know where the police are that deters most of us from drink or drug driving.
A lot of the objection to drug testing appears to come from fact many people believe that being on drugs is not a big deal (some even believe it is an acceptable life choice) and a person should only receive treatment when they are ready. If people were using drugs spending their own earned money then that viewpoint could be justified. However, if they are dependent on welfare and other taxpayers’ money then it is not unreasonable for us to ask that it not be spent on drugs.
The ABC also wheeled out a pair of welfare recipients who claim they would fail the test asking us to feel sympathy for them, a lot of taxpayers would see this and believe maybe now they would get the treatment they need. BuzzFeed’s Mark Di Stefano went on Sunrise claiming that the policy unfairly targets young people who may smoke a joint the night before a test. Well first of all cannabis is not classified as an addictive drug, drug law reform advocates always tell us this. Plus why do young people have the right to smoke a joint if they are living on the (forced) generosity of taxpayers? If they are using their own money, most don’t care, but if it is our money it’s different.
But back to the ABC’s coverage of this policy announcement their claim that the policy will fail is light on detail and they only interviewed people and organisations that were already opposed. If you claim that drug testing is demeaning then why not oppose it all parts of society? If private companies believe that it is beneficial and financially viable to drug test the people who they pay then why can’t taxpayers? The ABC yet again has discarded objectivity and willingly peddled the left’s agenda. We are by this stage not surprised at this even though the law states that the ABC must be balanced but we must continue to call them out when they try to spread fake news.