Centrelink Bundaberg.
Centrelink Bundaberg. Brian Cassidy

OPINION: What's the end game in welfare drug testing?

I WONDER if we're a society driven more by a desire to punish than to problem-solve.

There are a couple of situations that have made me wonder lately, the most prominent being the idea of drug testing welfare recipients.

With hundreds of comments on both sides, it's been our most discussed topic on the NewsMail's Facebook page in a long time.

The worry I have is whether anyone has had a good, hard think about the end result.

None of us want our tax dollars lining drug dealers' pockets, but what will the solution be for those who get caught?

Will there be rehabilitation facilities available? Will there be support to get drug-addicted people into work and into better circles where they're not tempted to relapse?

Or will these people fall by the wayside, lacking support and income but still wanting a fix? There are some things in life you just can't cut corners on and this is one of them.

The government has two sensible options to choose from - leave things the way they are right now, or bring in drug testing for welfare recipients along with every bit of support necessary to ensure the plan doesn't backfire and leave us with even more problems than we had to begin with.

Then there's the fact that people on welfare are not the only people using drugs.

If we start drug testing welfare recipients we may end up with some data telling us how many people are using drugs, but only for one segment of the community.

If this move is about law and order, perhaps helping our police would be a better use of resources.

If it's about morality, we should be checking every person regardless of income.

Focusing on drug use among welfare recipients casts a negative association with being on government payments and helps shore up votes from an angry public quite rightfully bothered by the illicit use of their tax dollars.

We may therefore be playing into our prejudices rather than finding an antidote to our problems.

This is no time for the government to play the hero unless it's with substance.