Treatment should follow welfare drug tests

Drug tests for welfare recipients could only work if those who tested positive were funnelled into rehabilitation, the head of one of the Illawarra’s leading drug rehabilitation services says.

Watershed Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre chief executive Will Temple said if the federal government wanted to introduce the scheme, there would need to be ‘‘treatment and intervention’’ to prevent users turning to crime to support  habits.

‘‘If you’re going to do drug testing, you have to put systems in place for those that test positive,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t necessarily agree with the idea but I get where they’re coming from.’’  

His comments come after Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempted to downplay an earlier statement by Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, who told media the government was considering welfare reform options, including the New Zealand model, where dole recipients are drug-tested.

Coalition backbencher George Christensen added fuel to the fire on Sunday, tweeting his support.

‘‘Those on dole & on drugs would be better off kicking the habit. There’d be no greater impetus than the threat of loss of benefits,’’ he tweeted.

However, Illawarra senator and parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Social Services Concetta Fierravanti-Wells dismissed the proposal as ‘‘highly speculative’’.

‘‘It is not something the government is planning,’’ she said. ‘‘We are focused on implementing the welfare reforms contained in the budget.’’

Mr Temple said turning people away from welfare without giving them a chance to get clean would result in an increase in the crime rate.

 ‘‘If you cut people off, they’ve got nothing, they’re going to jump in through people’s windows,’’ he said. ‘‘As long as they’re going to provide some treatment options in the first instance before they cut the dole off, then I say... that’s what they need to do.’’

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