TRIAL PROJECT: The government is set to use multiple methods of drug testing for welfare recipients.
TRIAL PROJECT: The government is set to use multiple methods of drug testing for welfare recipients. Shutterstock

Drug testing for dole will include urine samples

HE WANTS to bring it to Gladstone but Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd doesn't seem too sure how the Federal Government's new 'drug tests for the dole' policy will work.

Mr O'Dowd praised the policy last week, saying he was proud to be part of a government helping people get off drugs and into work.

But he was adamant the trial program would only include saliva testing, meaning no welfare recipients would be asked to provide urine samples.

"It does not include a urine test, it will use a saliva test taken as part of routine obligations," he told The Observer.

READ MORE | Drug tests for the dole

>> O'Dowd pushes drug tests for dole in Gladstone

>> What you said: Drug testing for people on welfare causes a stir

>> Support to drug-test MPs: poll

Mr O'Dowd also took issue with a social media campaign started in response to the policy by activist group GetUp, who encouraged people to email their Coalition MPs and Senators and demand mandatory urine drug testing for politicians.

"Oh, and GetUp!, it will be a saliva test, not urine. #getthefacts #fairness," he responded on Facebook.

But it turns out drug testing will not be restricted to saliva swabs under the policy.

The Department of Social Services' 'Welfare Reform: 2017 Budget' fact sheet states "testing will include saliva, hair follicle and urine testing".

A spokesperson from Social Services Minister Christian Porter's office confirmed the information in the fact sheet was the most detailed information on the policy available at this stage.

The Minister himself also told the ABC's Patricia Karvelas earlier this month that "a combination of different types of testing" could be employed by the Government.

"The saliva test is the shortest period of time, right up to a hair follicle test which can detect drugs for days, sometimes months depending on the nature of the test," Mr Porter said.

Minister for Social Services Christian Porter during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter.

The Coalition's drug testing policy will affect 5000 new Youth Allowance and Newstart recipients.

It will see those living in three trial locations across the country subjected to random testing for drugs including ecstasy, marijuana and methamphetamines, including ice.

Anyone who fails the first test will have their welfare payments "quarantined" to a cashless debit card, which they will not be able to use to buy drugs or alcohol.

The idea received support from some sections of the Gladstone community.

"I have to pass drug tests to work to pay big taxes to pay for their dole," one reader wrote on The Observer's Facebook page.

"If the dole people don't like it, well, go get a job then."

But others took issue with the proposal, raising concerns about the potential for mistaken results.

"I'm as anti-drug as they come ... but what I'm concerned about is if someone is at a BBQ around other people smoking marijuana it can show up in their system," another wrote.

"Are they going to lose their payment?

"I agree 100% for all other drug types but marijuana is such a grey area because you don't need to use to test non-negative."

Some commenters on Mr O'Dowd's page expressed their support for Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie's call for politicians to be drug-tested at random.

"Drug and alcohol testing for parliament too?" one commenter wrote.

"Why spend money dealing with something that's not an issue?" Mr O'Dowd replied.

"Politicians have jobs and don't deal with heavy machinery, so how do you justify the need for expensive testing?" he wrote later.

Mr O'Dowd's office was contacted for comment.