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Australian Politics, Budget2014, Civil Liberties, Tony Abbott, Trish Corry, Welfare

Drug Testing and the LNP’s Ongoing Stigmatization of the Poor

corporate welfare

The message that the Abbott Government is sending Australians and the world, is that Australian people in receipt of welfare are lazy, drug addled parasitic bludgers who have the only aim in life of ripping off the tax payer. The constant use of ‘welfare recipient’ and ‘unemployed’ rather than the use of the positive ‘job seeker’; the punitive measures such as cancelling of benefits as a prime punishment; forced labour not supported by workplace health and safety protections, nor minimum wage all serve to create a negative stereotype of welfare recipients. Now we have mandatory drug testing being flagged for people in receipt of unemployment benefits.

Mandatory drug testing was flagged whilst LNP were in opposition, particularly pushed by the born to rule, privileged class of the Young Liberals.  The group who have the highest likelihood of being able to be supported by their parents as unemployed adults; being afforded the privilege of gaining employment with their parents or their parents friends and being afforded the privilege access to many other social benefits, such as never going hungry and never being homeless.

The underlying argument for drug testing of welfare recipients, is that people on welfare are drug takers and associate with drug addled groups of friends and they should not use tax payers money to do so.  The fact is, people across all levels of society can take drugs, so if the Government was so concerned about the use of tax payers money to purchase illegal substances then the following groups should also be tested.

  • All Government Scholarship Recipients
  • All Politicians, Federal, State and Local Government
  • All public servants, state and federal
  • Farmers who receive subsidies
  • Mining Magnates who receive subsidies
  • CEOs and  Board Directors in receipt of corporate welfare
  • All research groups in receipt of Government funded research grants
  • All CEOs and Board Directors of NGO’s in receipt of Government funding

If the concern is about drugs and not about stigmatising welfare; then testing of these groups can be supported by studies in the United States indicate that rates of drug and alcohol problems in welfare recipients were no greater than the general population, or non-recipients of welfare.

Some of the answers against testing all of these groups, would be the cost to the tax payer. However, so does the drug testing of welfare recipients. In fact, studies show that of States in the USA who have drug tested welfare recipients, only a very small percentage showed positive, as compared to the general population.  This will be a counter productive exercise which will in fact cost the tax payer a lot more than any recouping of welfare dollars.

The only real answer against testing the above groups, is that they do not make the list of groups that the Abbott Government has an agenda to stigmatize.

One of the biggest concerns cited within the literature surrounding random workplace drug testing, is that of a false positive. A false positive is where the drug test shows a positive result, but the recipient of the test is not an active user of illicit drugs.  The other concern within the literature is unfair dismissal, where it is too difficult to determine the length of time a drug has been in a person’s system and there is no measure of impairment and the result would not impact on the safety of the tasks performed.

Another concern, is that there is no way of detecting how it was administered. This includes being in the same vicinity of someone engaged in the smoking of cannabis (passive inhalation) or the biggest concern, pharmaceutical and prescribed medications and the ingestion of some foods.

Please see the appendix for a list of substances that can return a false positive in a drug test:

To put this list quite simply – the following common substances can return a false positive:

  • Poppy Seeds
  • Cocoa Leaf Tea
  • Herbal Medicines
  • Nasal Inhalers (ie as in the ones you use when you have a cold)
  • Cold and Flu tablets
  • Cough medications
  • Prescribed mental health drugs, including anti-depressives and anti-psychotics and ADHD medications
  • Ibuprofen (for example but not limited to: Nurefon)
  • Codeine (for example but not limited to: Panadeine Forte)
  • Pain relievers (for example but not limited to Tramadol)

The above information poses some serious questions:

  1. Will the Government be prepared to drug test all the non-welfare recipient groups listed above?
  2. If the Government is only prepared to drug test welfare recipients only, what is the argument that this is not to purposely stigmatise this group of welfare recipients?
  3. Is the drug testing of welfare recipients a demarcation of deviant and acceptable behaviour in society to shape the public view as negative towards welfare recipients?
  4. What studies has the Government done into False Positives in drug testing?
  5. How can the Government guarantee that income will not be stopped in the case of false positives?
  6. With the ongoing active stigmatisation of welfare recipients by the Abbott Government, what systems will the Government have in place to ensure that welfare recipients will not be unfairly treated and that their objections will be listened to, in the event of a positive result, that the recipient claims is false?
  7. In the case of a false positive, what research has the Government done on the self-efficacy of welfare recipients to use the complaints process?
  8. Knowing that common prescribed drugs and some foods can return a false positive, would Mr. Abbott and his Government also be confident that they will never return a positive drug test?
  9. What impact will this have on regional, rural and remote areas without drug testing clinics?
  10. Will drug testing be bulk billed, will the welfare recipient have to pay full cost, or will it attract the GP Co-payment Tax?
  11. Drug dependency can equate to disability. What are the scenarios for illicit drug dependent welfare recipients, who do not qualify for disability, but are assessed to work more than 15 hours per week and are on Newstart?
  12. Will the Government’s only agenda be to stop welfare payments, or will they be referring positive testers for treatment? If so, what is the cost to the taxpayer?  If the Government isn’t referring for treatment, why not?
  13. What impact will the removal of benefits have on the children of welfare recipients?
  14. For all the LNP politicians advocating initiatives that deny financial assistance to welfare recipients; on a scale of one to ten, (one being the least hypocritical and ten being the most hypocritical) what level of hypocrisy will be felt for those who will be participating in the 2014 Vinnies CEO Sleepout on Thursday 19 June?

This is quite a complex area and I have tried to be as brief as possible to hold the readers attention.
I would urge everyone who is concerned with this, to push this to the wider media and also to politicians to seek answers on this new “Government Initiative of Stigmatising the Poor.”

Amundson, K, Zajicek, A, & Hunt, V 2014, ‘Pathologies of the Poor: What do the War on Drugs and Welfare Reform Have in Common?’, Journal Of Sociology & Social Welfare, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 5-28.
Begala, P. 2013. “Drug Testing for Congressmen.” Newsweek Global 161, no. 11: 1.
Berger, PB n.d., ‘Science misapplied: mandatory addiction screening and treatment for welfare recipients in Ontario’, CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 165, no. 4, p. 443-444.
Blank, A, Hellstern, V, Schuster, D, Hartmann, M, Matthée, A, Burhenne, J, Haefeli, W, & Mikus, G 2009, ‘Efavirenz Treatment and False-Positive Results in Benzodiazepine Screening Tests’, Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 48, no. 12, pp. 1787-1789.
Brahm, N, Yeager, L, Fox, M, Farmer, K, & Palmer, T 2010, ‘Commonly prescribed medications and potential false-positive urine drug screens’, American Journal Of Health-System Pharmacy, vol. 67, No. 16, pp. 1344-1350.
Chathanchirayil, S 2011, ‘False positive urine drug screening for tricyclic antidepressants in patients taking quetiapine’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 45, No. 9.
Fitzsimons, M, Ishizawa, Y, & Baker, K 2013, ‘Drug testing physicians for substances of abuse: case report of a false-positive result’, Journal Of Clinical Anesthesia, vol. 25, no. 8, pp. 669-671.
Gunders, L 2012, ‘Immoral and un-Australian: the discursive exclusion of welfare recipients’, Critical Discourse Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1-13.
Makkai, T, 2000, Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA): Drug Detection Testing, Australian Institute of Criminology, Research and Public Policy Series No. 25.
Moeller, K, Lee, K, & Kissack, J 2008, ‘Urine drug screening: practical guide for clinicians’, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 83, no. 1, pp. 66-76.
Pollack, H, Danziger, S, Jayakody, R, & Seefeldt, K 2002, ‘Drug testing welfare recipients—false positives, false negatives, unanticipated opportunities’, Women’s Health Issues, vol. 12, no. 1, pp 23-31.


List of substances that can return a false positive in a drug test


About trishcorry

I love to discuss Australian Politics. My key areas of interest are Welfare, Disadvantage, emotions in the workplace, organisational behaviour, stigma, leadership, women, unionism. I am pro-worker and anti-conservativism/Liberalism. You will find my blog posts written from a Laborist / Progressive Slant.


21 thoughts on “Drug Testing and the LNP’s Ongoing Stigmatization of the Poor

  1. Reblogged this on The Australian Independent Media Network and commented:

    Drug Testing – part of Tony Abbott’s agenda to stigmatize the poor.


    Posted by trishcorry | June 1, 2014, 11:40 am
  2. So much money to be made from widespread drug testing.. look to who will benefit.


    Posted by andyaswas | June 1, 2014, 11:53 am
  3. Did you mention old age pensioners? Disability carers? PPL receivers? Centrelink employees?


    Posted by Judith | June 1, 2014, 12:02 pm
  4. I think the gov and rich cohorts need drug testing
    They have the contacts, and are cashed up all the time, unlike our welfare recipients
    Who live on nothing now, and will starve or be forced into crime or prostitution, living on the streets

    I think we should be drug testing all the pollies, they have the resources and cash, and are sure acting like
    They are on steroids, ice, and need anti psychotic drugs themselves
    But like usual with this mob, telling us all our problems are self inflicted, god they need to grow up
    Those pack of old lib men need a chill pill I reckon


    Posted by DanDark | June 1, 2014, 12:06 pm
  5. Another Neo-lib nocturnal emission – utter bullshit!


    Posted by edward eastwood | June 1, 2014, 12:25 pm
  6. This Government is a disgrace. This is what happens when you get a group of ugly-mean spirited- old men in power. Fortunately their kind can’t live forever unfortunately this knowledge is not much comfort for all who are the targets of their misanthropy. If we want to create a society in which all have access to housing, education, healthcare and welfare we need all men and women of good faith to stand together and block the budget. Double dissolution now.


    Posted by Kay Johnstone | June 1, 2014, 12:29 pm
  7. One group that clearly needs drug testing because of their erratic behaviour and their inability to think coherently is the Young Liberals. I would definitely support any proposals to make drug testing mandatory for anyone joining this group. Along with Christopher Pyne’s electorate.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by rossleighbrisbane | June 1, 2014, 12:45 pm
  8. Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    Good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by John | June 1, 2014, 1:40 pm
  9. This is a truly excellent post, Trish: the question must be how to get its vitally important contents to those who will need them … Through ACOSS ? – or am I being naïve ?


    Posted by M-R | June 1, 2014, 1:49 pm
  10. Mr abbots actually not too bright, I’m sure more welfare money goes on booze than anything illicit. THAT won’t show up all the time and has the worst effects on our society than any joint ever did. Fix that abbot . Deal with the DV and alcohol related violence . Oh that’s right, means u lot won’t get to drink the parlimentary cellar dry


    Posted by Robert | June 1, 2014, 1:52 pm
  11. I’m beginning to think the LNP Tories just want people such as myself, the family I came from and many others to simply lay down and die so that the books are skewed a little more positively in terms of GDP, income etc. Sad thing is, there will always be a lower end of the scale – are they to forever be punished for their place?


    Posted by austriaal | June 1, 2014, 2:01 pm
  12. APN Newspapers are having a go – http://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/christensen-continues-campaign-welfare-drug-testin/2275890/ – and I posted a link back to this post.


    Posted by Generic User | June 1, 2014, 4:46 pm
  13. Push backs on profligate governments spending happen from time to time. Often first budget of incoming Lib government that win in a LANDSLIDE. Howard chipped away at a large deficit – got us to surplus, Surplus gave us resiliency in GFC. Australia barely felt the pain from which the rest of the world is still recovering. Deficit budgets are not always bad, but for the economic health of the nation they cannot be sustained. We are borrowing from our kids.

    2 observations – first is that its easy to make money in Australia. And it would be easier if a bunch of idiot bureaucratic regulations were removed. Not everyone can work – agreed and lets support those people somewhat, but folks, MOST people can work – we just need to manage it. Our systems are way too easy on users of the system – if you do not know at least 10 people who should not be on welfare I’d say you need to get out more.

    If you are a fair dinkum Aussie, prepared to chip in to keep this a good country, then you’ll want others that can to do, and you’ll want empowering experience for those that can’t.

    We can only keep our FAIR GO mantra if we cohesively act in a fair go manner. No free rides in this amusement park.

    Re- drug testing for payments – agreed, it is dopey – so are cash payments. Maybe 80% of payments ought to be “coupon” / claim back style. Cash slips easily through lazy hands.


    Posted by Garry Hoddinott | June 2, 2014, 3:54 pm
  14. There will always be people who genuinely need help due to medical conditions or , and a strong welfare system is needed to support this, but there should be measures in place to make sure the money goes to those who cant work because of genuine medical conditions, or are in need of short term help, rather than it being wasted on people who don’t want to make the effort.

    Many people who work have to be drug tested as part of their jobs, so I don’t see anything wrong with it being a requirement if you are a long term “job seeker” (what do you call someone who is looking for a job but not reveiving welfare payments, by the way? if you are receiving welfare, then you are by definition, a welfare recipient.)

    I have been in many jobs over the years – and I have been a job seeker several times myself – but never a welfare recipient, because I have always been careful to live modestly enoough so that I could usually save 10% of my (after tax) income, and I don’t use credit cards at all, because they only deferr payment for a month and so long term do nothing to make your life more affordable. The flyby / freq flyer mile points are a trap for suckers. One missed card payment in a two year period completely wipes out any potential savings and benefits they provide.

    I don’t earn a massive salary – I’m in a middle tax income bracket – but have to constantly keep learning new skills and stay relevant and competitive in my job. (I write software for a living, so there’s always new languages, and increasing competition from overseas outsourcing)

    When you have 1/4 of the adult population dependent on the other 3/4 of the population though, clearely something is wrong with the system.

    It is wrong to have a lot of able bodied healthy people not willing to retrain ot skill up enough to become employable, expecting to be carried by those who do take the effort, and bleeding the system dry so that those who really need help can’t get it.


    Posted by Vivian | August 31, 2014, 4:32 pm


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Trish Corry



I love to discuss Australian Politics. My key areas of interest are Welfare, Disadvantage, emotions in the workplace, organisational behaviour, stigma, leadership, women, unionism. I am pro-worker and anti-conservativism/Liberalism. You will find my blog posts written from a Laborist / Progressive Slant.

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