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Government's Proposed Drug Trials Raise Concerns for Human Rights


30 May 2017 at 2:17 pm
Rachel McFadden
The Turnbull government's proposed drug trials to test 5,000 new welfare recipients could be a violation of human rights, a Victorian law centre has confirmed.


Rachel McFadden | 30 May 2017 at 2:17 pm


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Government's Proposed Drug Trials Raise Concerns for Human Rights
30 May 2017 at 2:17 pm

The Turnbull government’s proposed drug trials to test 5,000 new welfare recipients could be a violation of human rights, a Victorian law centre has confirmed.

The Law Institute of Victoria told Pro Bono News on Tuesday, that drug testing welfare recipients raised issues of discriminatory treatment under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In a statement the Law Institute of Victoria said the potential breach referred to Article 9 of the convent which determined everyone has the right to social security.

Under the proposed drug trials, which could rollout to 5,000 Newstart recipients in three unknown sites as early as January 2018, recipients who test positive to drug and alcohol testing will be put on the controversial cashless cards.

The Law Institute of Victoria said that the cashless cards “could also raise issues to do with the right to privacy, as such a card would restrict their personal autonomy and right to a personal life.”

“This was brought up in a discussion on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015 where the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights raised concerns that restrictions on income support payments could limit the right to a private life and rights to privacy,” the statement said.

The statement from the Law Institute of Victoria comes on top of the social sector’s criticism that the proposed reforms to welfare were “punitive” and “scapegoating” and the Greens claims that the proposed trials were a breach of civil liberties.

On Thursday, questioning in estimates revealed that the disability discrimination commissioner also had concerns about the potential for a human rights breach and that the Australian Human Rights Commission had not been consulted on the matter.

The Australian Greens have conducted research on the rollout and success of similar programs oversees and found that in both the United Kingdom and Canada the trials were abandoned after being found to be discriminatory.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert called on the Turnbull government to follow suit.

“The Labour party in the U.K. flagged trial sites for drug testing in 2009 and the Social Security Advisory Committee condemned it as ‘simplistic’ whilst calling for it to be abandoned. It was then completely abandoned by the conservative coalition when they came into power shortly after, demonstrating an understanding that drug testing people accessing income support is bad policy,” Siewert said.

“Ontario’s government also stepped away from the idea in 2013, it had been previously flagged by the Human Rights Commission that testing people accessing income support was discriminatory.

“Both governments listened to organisations, committees or commissions that provide advice and flag major problems with proposed policy.”

Pro Bono News approached the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Disability Discrimination Commission for comment but they did not wish to comment at this stage.


Rachel McFadden  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Rachel is a journalist specialising in the social sector.

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