Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Stop the demonisation of welfare recipients

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In May the Treasurer Scott Morrison announced that from 2018 the federal government would drug test 5000 welfare recipients. The suggestion being that illicit drug use is rife amongst those out of work. In actual fact, many surveys show that illicit drug use is much more common amongst those who are employed.

If a welfare recipient refuses to be tested they will be financially penalised, while a positive drug test will result in them being forced onto a ‘cashless card’ which can only be used in certain stores. Taking the stigmatisation to a new level, the government plans to use a profiling tool to select areas that will be targeted.

This type of drug testing has been done in multiple countries and has always been met with the same results and criticisms. In general, illegal drug use among welfare recipients is low.

When people are found to be struggling with illicit drug use, research shows that rather than penalising them, funding would be much better spent supporting victims of addiction. For example, people seeking drug rehabilitation currently wait months before getting a placement.

Far from an attempt to address a real problem this policy is designed to demonise welfare recipients, placing the blame for unemployment on them rather than on employers and the capitalist system.

The truth is that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. Data has shown that there are around 19 unemployed or underemployed people for every job available! The key reason for unemployment is capitalist greed. Employers put profits ahead of our job security.

Socialists say that if the system cannot provide enough jobs then the system should provide people with decent welfare provisions. With that being the case, we defend the rights of welfare recipients and demand an increase to their payments. Drug testing welfare recipients will do nothing to create more jobs and it should be opposed.

This is just another example of the government diverting attention away from the real problems that people face.

By Amy Johnson


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