Job seekers in Mandurah will be hit with random drug testing, federal Social Services Minister Christian Porter has announced.
The city will be one of three locations in a trial to commence in January if the controversial measure wins Senate approval.
About 750 new job seekers signing onto Centrelink would be subject to random testing for drugs such as ice, ecstasy, heroin and marijuana.
Those who test positive would be forced onto a cashless welfare card with those failing more than once referred to medical professionals for treatment.
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Mr Porter said Mandurah and the region was struggling to tackle the problems of drug abuse in the community and cited statistics suggesting 23 per cent of the population was drug-affacted.
“There is clearly a problem here with the consumption of illicit drugs, particularly the drug ice, which needs to be dealt with in an honest and clear-minded fashion,” he said.
“What we have seen in internal data that we keep at the Department of Human Services is a massive increase in the number of people who are excused out of turning up to important appointments – like job interviews – because of drug problems.
“This drug testing trial is designed to achieve one very important outcome and that is to move more people more quickly from welfare dependency into employment.”
Canning MP Andrew Hastie welcomed the announcement and said his constituents wanted action on illicit drugs.
“Our community has really struggled with the impact of drugs and this initiative is a practical step to help address that,” he said.
“We all know the devastating impact drugs have on individuals, families and communities.
“We need to try new things to help people overcome substance abuse so they can get clean and get a job.
“Employment provides individuals with the stability and self-worth they need to be healthy functioning members of their family and community.”
Mr Hastie said he had surveyed 45,000 households in his electorate over winter and conducted 28 community forums over the last eight weeks with drug use highlighted as a key concern.
On Tuesday, Mr Porter announced a site in Sydney’s western suburbs had also been chosen as a trial site.
“It is not about penalising or stigmatising people who have a barrier to employment which is as serious as drug abuse,” Mr Porter said.
“We want to help people in this situation.
“Failure to do so simply leaves people at risk of a cycle of welfare dependency.”
When the measure was announced in May as part of the federal budget Mr Porter said the trial would “ensure taxpayers’ money is not being used to fund drug addictions for dangerous substances such as ice and that people in these situations are given every assistance to improve their lives”.