A burning question arises from Budget 2017. What drugs are Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his team on? There can be no other rational explanation for the inclusion of a total clanger in an otherwise mediocre and generally anticipated bunch of policies. On Tuesday, 9 May, Treasurer Scott Morrison announced money for health, education, and farmers, more taxes, a hit to the banks and a kick for anti-vaxxers. And right at the end, a surreptitiously adopted populist measure to piss-test the poor.
There is no point asking what Mal, ScoMo, and Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, were thinking, as it is abundantly obvious. Perhaps more shocking than the policy itself, is that the Coalition has listened to people other than its rich donors. Yet in doing so, it has embarrassed itself by proposing as serious policy, a fetid and ghastly brainfart.
Despite having an abundance of professionals, consultants and experts at their fingertips, the not-so-illustrious leaders have turned to the blokes and women in the pub, and eagerly adopted the worn-out mantra of the self-righteously indignant and resentful.
“I get drug tested for my job, why should those bludgers be able to smoke a joint and get the dole?”
“I don’t want my taxes going to meth-heads and stoners.”
“Why should my money go to junkies to support their habits?”
One can only guess how the conversation went in the back rooms of Parliament House.
“ScoMo, old boy, I have a plan!”
Yet just what intoxicating substance did Morrison snort to make him think such a proposal would be even remotely passable as a “cost-saving” measure? What potent brain-fudger did Turnbull and his team of budgeteers imbibe to magic up such pointless twatwafflery?
What jollies they must have had from the thought of sifting through rivers of excrement in search of the elusive whiff of weed.
The proposal is simple enough, in fact it is inherently simplistic. Drug test 5000 random welfare recipients for cannabis, ecstasy or methamphetamine use. If they test positive, they go on the cashless welfare card, in an attempt to deprive them of funds to buy drugs. The new program will focus on recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance payments in three locations, and the so-called “random tests” will use “a data-driven profiling tool… to identify relevant characteristics that indicate a higher risk of substance abuse issues.”
There is even a little bit of rehabilitative help thrown in to satisfy the bleeding-heart, leftie whingers who might claim that depriving drug-users of access to cash and the autonomy to spend it as they wish is a violation of their human rights.
That is pretty much it. A hair-brained plan to test a select proportion of welfare recipients for drugs most commonly used by lower socioeconomic groups in some kind of vain attempt to force them off drugs and back into the workforce.
In what alternative universe does the Government think restricting the cash flow to drug users and abusers will result in anything other than terrible consequences for the community?
Instead of a mature debate about drug use and abuse in the nation’s poorest demographic, Turnbull and co have opted for a puerile, infantile tactic to win the votes of mainstream Australia. In between inhaling sweet vapours and digesting fermented grape juice, they evidently thought it a genius move guaranteed to win widespread applause and nods of enthusiastic approval from the public.
Do they genuinely believe that brain-fried junkies will miraculously reform and de-addict overnight with the threat of Big Daddy-o taking the cash? What exactly do Turnbull and his completely out-of-touch Cabinet believe the “ice junkies” are going to do when they can’t fund their habit?
When there are no tax dollars at hand, they’ll go to the tax-payers directly.
Cue an increase in crime, thefts, robberies and drug-fuelled violence from the tiniest minority of people who rely on welfare and can’t kick the drugs.
Cue an increase in down-on-their luck Aussies who are humiliated and belittled by being subject to mandatory drug testing so they can feed their families.
Drug testing those on welfare is nothing more than a nasty, punitive, vindictive attempt to satisfy the lust for “fairness” from those begrudging that they can’t rock up to work high as a kite. If the conversation is about fairness and equality, the Government would enforce mandatory drug testing in every occupation and industry, or at the very least, for every position funded by the tax-payer, including themselves.
And if the conversation is about “moral superiority”, every person who supports this rancid proposal would insist every employee in every business who takes their money in whatever form be subject to testing too. Buying fuel at the servo? Don’t pay until the cashier provides a swab of saliva. Hitting up the market for Aussie-grown beef? No cash until the farmer gives a clean urine sample.
Or is drug use and abuse acceptable as long as the addict is employed?
But it’s not about drug use, or abuse, or the personal habits of total strangers. And it’s not about the alleged unfairness of drug testing in the workplace, which is to do with safety, not thinly-veiled ideology. It’s bred from the perception that those on welfare are living in a fancy, fun-filled, drug-fueled euphoric bubble of happiness. By contrast, the same people are not dashing to quit their jobs to join the welfare-funded-party, and they rarely object to government-labelled-bad habits paid for with a weekly earned wage, no matter how big an eventual cost to the taxpayer.
Tobacco smoking, which is legal, is responsible for more drug-related hospitalisations and deaths than alcohol and illicit drugs combined. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013 states that in 2010, “it was estimated that tobacco smoking was responsible for 8.3% of the burden of disease in Australasia, 2.7% was attributable to alcohol use and a further 2.6% was attributable to the use of illicit Drugs.”
Further, in 2013, 29.2% of the population aged 14 and over engaged in risky drinking in the previous 12 months, compared with 15% who took illicit drugs, and 12.8% who smoked tobacco daily. Of illicit drug use, more people misuse pharmaceutical drugs (4.7%) than use methamphetamines (2.1%).
Yet bashing the alleged drug-using-dole-bludger is a favoured sport of Australians, despite being three times more likely to be a victim of an alcohol-related incident than a victim of an illicit drug-related incident. It’s employed versus unemployed, rich versus poor, the-drug-of-choice-of-city-dwellers versus the-available-substances-for-the-rural-and-remote.
It’s the taxed demanding that they have a say on how public funds are spent, while demonising just a small percentage of the population, who, through circumstances unbeknown to the judger, are not employed.
Advocating for the imposition of paternalistic conditions on the poorest of Australians who are already below the poverty line under the guise of “helping” them, is pathetic.
The public does not get to choose where their taxes go, whether it be health, education, corporate benefits, infrastructure or politicians perks. Taxes fund all manner of vile and abominable purposes, for example federally funded religious schools using tax money to protect paedophiles, dropping bombs on the wrong fighters in Syria, torturing refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, and destroying the environment.
International examples have shown that drug testing for welfare does not achieve much at all, and costs a whole lot of money which could otherwise be used on medical and health based interventions which do work, for example evidence-based drug prevention programs and medically supervised rehabilitation. Instead, the Government continues to treat drug use and abuse as a criminal matter, subjecting vulnerable and psychologically distressed people to punitive action.
In the absence of support and access to suitable rehabilitative measures, what options do those addicted to drugs have? Who will employ them while they struggle to overcome their demons? Where will they get the money from that they need to live, feed their families, and admittedly, buy their drugs?
Australians need to accept that some people are not suited to the workforce, either temporarily or permanently. It makes sense, socially and economically to support them financially, as unpalatable as the general working population may find it.
However there may be a silver lining for those who think it is too odious to grant these people social security. The consequences for those vulnerable people subject to the Government’s program who cannot kick the habit and are denied the help they need are predictable. Overdose or suicide.
And dead people don’t need welfare.