Dubbo residents who receive Centrelink payments will not be forced to undergo drug tests any time soon but they might in the future after federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton confirmed he supported trials.
While Mr Coulton said "a drug testing trial is not being considered for Dubbo at the moment", he expressed support for the federal government two-year trials in the Bankstown, Logan and Mandurah regions.
"I support these trials, because the community has the right to expect that taxpayer-funded welfare payments are not being used to fund drug addiction," he said.
"We want to encourage people with substance abuse issues to get treatment, rehabilitate and make them job ready."
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Mr Coulton said the government was introducing the trials because it wanted to eliminate barriers which might stop unemployed people securing paid work.
He said a $10 million treatment fund would help unemployed people who tested positive to drugs in trial sites, because it would support them to pursue treatment which addressed their substance-abuse issues.
If the trials are successful, the government is expected to consider introducing further drug-testing initiatives in other locations.
Mayor backs drug test plan
Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields said he supported mandatory drug testing of Newstart unemployment benefit recipients, provided "every effort was made to assist people who are found to be taking illegal substances".
"It would be critical that all of the processes were in place to ensure people could be looked after," he said.
"I support the proposal to cancel payments of people who refuse testing, but for those who fail a test, it is crucial they be assisted with the necessary rehabilitation and not a financial penalty.
"In the case of Dubbo, that would require the region having a drug and alcohol detoxifcation and rehabilitation centre. The federal government has provided $3 million, Dubbo Regional Council has committed to providing the land, we now need the state government to...provide the remaining funding required."
Cr Shields said drug use was a breach of of employment terms in many cases and the government's policy should help make unemployed people more "job ready".
"People who use drugs are jeopardising their employment prospects and they need to be provided with help," he said.
"The reality is that if people aren't taking drugs, then they have nothing to fear by completing a drug test. And if they are using drugs, they need to be given appropriate care and treatment to rehabilitate them."
Human rights warning
Drug testing welfare recipients would be expensive and inefficient, a University of Wollongong academic says.
Ben Mostyn is a law and drug policy lecturer. He says there is no evidence to suggest drug testing people on Newstart will reduce addiction or increase employment - and that the proposed trial may breach human rights.
"This would be a new trial in Australia," he said.
"As academics, we have very strict rules about what kind of tests we can do on human subjects, and if this is going to be a trial involving human subjects it should conform to those same principles."
Newstart recipients selected for the trial, who refused to undertake the test, would be stripped of welfare payments. Dr Mostyn said the inability to opt out of the trial may be a breach of human rights.
"That is very concerning - it effectively makes the test compulsory, and there are human rights concerns around compulsory medical testing," he said.
"In Victoria and the ACT that is a clear right, that people cannot be forced into health care. It seems to me that this would be in breach of those [rights]."
He said tests for welfare recipients were more physically intrusive than drug and alcohol tests for drivers.
"You can choose not to drive - and unlike failing an RBT, if you fail the welfare test you are compelled into treatment whether you have a drug problem or not," he said.
Dr Mostyn said data suggests that 90 per cent - or more - of people tested will pass.
"They're having their privacy invaded to prove their innocence," he said.
"[It] suggests that welfare recipients are less deserving of basic human rights.
"Basic human rights have to be extended to everyone, and it's probably more important they're extended to the most vulnerable and least popular members of society."
Additionally, medications containing amphetamines, opioids and cannabis are sometimes prescribed by doctors in Australia to treat a variety of health problems, and could cause people to fail a drug test.
Dr Mostyn said he believed the government was motivated by a sincere desire to help - but drug testing people on welfare was not the answer.
"It's going to be a very expensive program, and it isn't an efficient way of identifying at-risk people," he said.