why we should not drug test welfare recipients

Fifteen years ago, Cabramatta's heroin issue was raging. Dealing and drug dependency was rife. But heroin use and crime has not only dropped significantly across south-west Sydney but across the country too. The latest figures show ice has done the same thing. In fact, ice use. How? By treating the drug issue as a health issue, not a criminal one. Reducing not just the supply of drugs but the demand for drugs has been an effort created by law enforcement working with health agencies including treatment and other harm reduction services. Police understand this deeply. Ask former Victorian Police commissioner Ken Lay, who headed the ice taskforce. What were his findings? More treatment and less punishment. I've worked in south-west Sydney for over a decade. My grandfather Ted Noffs spent his life fighting for the rights of Australians who had disadvantaged in many forms. My parents developed the country's first adolescent drug treatment centre because nothing existed like it. And my wife and I started the Street University in south-west Sydney because again, nothing like it existed. And of course, we are not alone. There have been many pioneering organisations who helped see crime plummet. For half a century, we have been fighting for Australia's most vulnerable populations. Now, with proposed introduction of welfare drug testing, we see all the work to make Australia a fairer and safer place at risk. But let's say you don't care for this sort of bleeding heart approach в let's say you want to see people on taxpayer money drug tested.

Doesn't it follow that all pollies on tax dollars should also be tested in the same way? Jacqui Lambie thinks so, and I agree. Even if we cannot find the heart, nor the intellect, to see the evidence before us, we should at least apply the test to all those dependent on our tax. If MPs voting for this legislation think taxpayers spending money on welfare recipients have the right to know the drug use history of those recipients, then it's only fair that those same MPs в and their colleagues в who also receive taxpayer dollars, be tested too. I trust Nick Xenophon, who holds the key to the bill becoming legislation, understands this. Imagine the cruelty of the one who says a poor person must take a drug test but a rich one has no such obligation. This is not only a direct return to the Cabramatta days, but also a way to inflict "justice" onto poor people. We are clear now that "say no to drugs" has failed us and our children. Instead, we've seen a reduction in young people using drugs and alcohol by being realistic and helping them understand the dangers of drugs without needlessly scaring them. The youngest generation of Australians use less drugs and drink less alcohol than their parents and grandparents. They are the most sober generation of Australians so far. However, if someone is addicted to drugs, are we so foolish to believe that we could stop them using by simply quarantining their money? This is an extension of "say no to drugs".

It doesn't work. Worse still, it encourages them to find worse ways to find money to support their addiction. And what's the easiest way to get money and drugs? Dealing. Wouldn't you expect me to be shouting for joy about "forcing" kids into rehab? No. It fails. My dream is to make Australia the country with the smallest drug issues on Earth. Look at the stats: a 33 per cent drop in ice use. The dream is becoming a reality. If I believed that forcing kids into rehab worked, I'd be calling for it. It doesn't work. Our three latest Street Universities across Queensland have seen more than 3,000 young people in three years, many with ice issues. What's the result? A significant reduction in their drug use. So let me make this clear в forcing how a young person spends their money will do one thing and one thing only в increase drug dealing. And it will increase it in areas that struggled 15 years ago. Again, this an attack on poor areas by the rich. It is lopsided. Oh, and speaking of rich people в did I mention that while ice is on the decrease, cocaine is on the up? Where, among other places? Canberra. You heard correctly. Canberrans use than most Australians. So if we're going to drug test people, let's drug test everyone on the taxpayer purse. Not just the poor. It's the only way to make it fair. Matt Noffs is chief executive of the Ted Noffs Foundation and co-founder of Street Universities.
Several states have implemented policies that require new welfare recipients to pass drug screenings.

Very few people tested positive. Critics of the policy argue forcing recipients to pass a drug screening only makes being poor that much more humiliating. б The testing is meant to assure taxpayers their money isnБt being БwastedБ on the less desirable, those who would somehow manage to buy drugs with the assistance. But in Tennessee, where drug testing was enacted for welfare recipients last month, only one person in the 800 who applied for help tested positive. In Florida, during the four months the state tested for drug use, only 2. 6% of applicants tested positive. Meanwhile, Florida has an illegal drug use rate of 8%, meaning far fewer people on services are using drugs than their better-off counterparts. The drug testing cost taxpayers more money than it saved, and was ruled unconstitutional last year. Applying and being accepted for aid is a mentally grueling process that can stretch on for months. Add to that the humiliation of having to pee in a cup just because you canБt afford to eat. ThereБs already a huge stigma about having to receive services, a spiral of shame and embarrassment that permeates the use of the system. Instead of wasting taxpayer money to weed out a small percent of those in need, demonizing an entire sect of people in favor of misleading stereotypes, maybe itБs time we put our funds into helping them find their way out of the system and onto their own two feet.

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