Wayside brands govt drug testing ‘nasty’

A Kings Cross homeless charity supported by the prime minister and his family has branded the federal government’s plan to drug test dole recipients “nasty”.

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Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy have backed The Wayside Chapel – which looks after the down and out of inner Sydney – both financially and personally over many years.

Reverend Graham Long says the drugs test plan announced in the federal budget shows the government’s understanding of social disadvantage “is about the same as what Kim Jong-un understands about diplomacy”.

“The random drug testing on the poor is well-intentioned but nasty,” Rev Long said in a newsletter emailed to supporters on Thursday.

“It’s discouraging that governments know that ‘getting tough on the poor’ is a message that seems to hearten those who point fingers and don’t understand.”

From 2018, 5000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients will be placed in two-year testing trials for illicit substances including ice, ecstasy and marijuana.

Anyone who tests positive will have their welfare quarantined and those who fail more than once will be referred for medical assessment and treatment.

Mr Turnbull said this week drug testing would help people get off drugs.

“If somebody has got an addiction to drugs and you love them, what do you want to do? You want them to get off their addiction,” he said.

The prime minister also pointed to a correlation between drug addiction and unemployment, noting random drug testing was common in many industries.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce went further, saying people on the taxpayer funded dole had an obligation to be fit for work.

“You are not going to be ready for work if you are drunk … (or) smashed on drugs,” Mr Joyce said.

Wayside Chapel is a favourite charity for many of Sydney’s well-heeled and influential elite, including NSW Governor David Hurley and his predecessor Dame Marie Bashir.

Its high profile sponsors include major commercial banks like Macquarie Group and legal firm Clayton Utz.