Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Questions without Notice

Social Security

2:50 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Ryan. In the government's recent budget it announced drug testing trials for 5,000 new income support recipients in a number of locations in Australia. On 15 June A Current Affair,the program on Channel Nine, identified sites including north of Brisbane, Western Sydney and Melbourne's north-west as potential trial sites for drug testing income support recipients. Can the minister confirm that these sites are being considered? If so, on what basis is the decision being made and, if not, when will the government inform Australia as to those trial sites?

2:51 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

I am not familiar with the A Current Affair episode, Senator Siewert. The brief I have does not refer to that episode. This was discussed at estimates, as you will recall. The government is considering the selection of sites. I know that one of the criteria being considered is the availability of both the support services and, of course, the testing services. I am happy to go back to the minister and seek clarification as to the particular program you refer to.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Siewert, a supplementary question.

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I understand that the government will need an exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act to implement the trials. Can you confirm this?

2:52 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

The Social Security Act has been exempt from the operation of the disability discrimination law since the Disability Discrimination Act commenced in 1992. The intent of this is to ensure that pensions and allowances, including for those with disability, are made according to the purposes of those payments. I understand this was also discussed, if I recall correctly, at estimates, Senator Siewert, and any exemption that will be sought will be consistent with the exemption that already applies to the Social Security Act that I have just mentioned.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Siewert, a final supplementary question.

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I was hoping there was some progress on that matter. Given that in the US and New Zealand similar measures have been proven an expensive failure, is the government willing to now tell Australia how much these trials are going to cost?

2:53 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

The government will of course, I imagine, be in a position to do that once various aspects of this program, as was outlined clearly at Senate estimates, have actually been settled. But at the time when we are going to tender, we are not going to expose the taxpayer to risk of the Commonwealth showing its hand, so to speak. Senator Siewert, what I always come back to, as I have in this chamber and as I do at estimates, is the absolute and utter hostility of the Greens to undertaking any measure that you and no-one else deems to be against the interests of people taking illegal, illicit drugs. Just because something has been trialled elsewhere and has not worked does not mean it should not be tried again. We are interested in helping people get off illegal, illicit substances, yet your constant belligerence and refusal to look at these measures betrays the old policies you took off your website a year ago. (Time expired)

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting