House debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Questions without Notice

Pensions and Benefits

2:56 pm

Photo of Terry YoungTerry Young (Longman, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government's stable and certain approach to welfare is helping Australians facing drug and alcohol addiction get back into employment?

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Longman, who has come to this place with a passion for helping people facing drug and alcohol addiction, as well as bringing young Australians and people of all ages who are unemployed into employment, with the dignity, the certainty and the stability of work and all of the economic security which comes with that.

In particular, what we know is that in his own electorate he has been a passionate advocate for the $11 million for the Lives Lived Well drug and alcohol program. That includes $7½ million for a residential rehabilitation centre and the balance—$3½ million—for drug detox and treatment programs. This is immensely important, to give people dignity, to give people opportunity and to bring them down from addiction. It's part of a broader program which we're following nationally: a $780 million drug and alcohol program across the nation, including $298 million to the National Ice Action Strategy. That involves treatment programs around the country, both at the local level and more generally.

One of the things, though, that is very important is we know that for people seeking employment, where they happen to have, and suffer from, some form of addiction, it can be a double burden. It can make the seeking of employment especially hard. That is why the government is proposing to bring into being a 5,000-person trial across three sites—in Queensland, in New South Wales and in Mandurah in WA—for drug testing for welfare recipients.

The important thing here is that there are two steps initially. Firstly, if somebody fails an initial test then they will have their welfare quarantined to the extent of 80 per cent, precisely so as to allow them to spend that money on the things that they need to physically sustain themselves—not to be the subject of attacks by drug dealers and others who would harvest their funds. But, secondly, if after a second test at 25 days they test positive again then they will be referred to medical support. We are providing $10 million to that medical support to allow people the opportunity to have specialised treatment, to give them the chance to break that addiction and to give them the dignity of work, which comes more easily if they are free of that addiction. That is real compassion and real stability of policy, because people know we stand for giving Australians the chance to get off addiction. We do that because we believe in it, we do that because it's the right thing and we do that because ultimately this is the pathway to stability, to certainty and to the dignity of work. (Time expired)