Health and Safety

Health and Safety- Jacqui Lambie

Health and Safety - Jacqui Lambie

We can’t call ourselves a successful nation if we can’t afford to keep ourselves fit, healthy and safe.

Tasmania’s drug epidemic is a health crisis and a social crisis.

No amount of police will stop people getting sick, just as no amount of doctors and nurses will stop people taking drugs.

The JLN will:

  Give parents the legal authority to intervene early, before it’s too late to prevent their children from slipping into a lifetime of drug abuse and welfare dependency. 

  Restrict the opportunity for unemployed welfare recipients to purchase illegal drugs through income management. For more information, click here.

  Ramp up the state’s investment in aged care by incentivising training of aged care professionals.

  Invest in a new hospital for the state’s North-West coast. 

  Improve access to rehab centres, to finally address the state’s drug and alcohol epidemic. 

Don't cut welfare, reform it

If we want people on welfare payments to be supported, not persecuted, then something needs to change.

The support for drug testing welfare recipients is overwhelming, with those calling for testing outnumbering those opposed to it by more than three to one, according to one ReachTel poll in August 2017.

Even the majority of welfare recipients who are doing the right thing and not using drugs are worse off as a result of community opinion. The perception that dole recipients are drug users makes it impossible to build community support for an increase in the value of payments.

Taxpayers will not support paying more if they think it’s just going to spent on drugs.

That means that welfare recipients are being punished little by little, whether or not they are on drugs.

Something needs to change.

It’s true that the cards are controversial.

But I’m in favour of anything that gets people off drugs and into work.

And from what I’ve seen, in trials and in practice, the cashless welfare card is a circuit breaker. It has the potential to change the way the community feels about welfare, by ending the days of drug dealers preying on vulnerable welfare recipients and restore the confidence in the welfare system that is necessary to increase the value of payments to where they need to be.

Drug abuse isn’t an issue that only exists among welfare recipients. But it’s undeniable that drug abuse is happening amongst welfare recipients. And with unemployed people up to 2.5 times more likely to be drug users, it’s impossible to suggest that these problems aren’t related.[i]

And if you’re taking the money you’re getting from taxpayers to support you while you’re looking for work, and you’re using it to fund crime, to undermine your own ability to find work, and to put your safety and the safety of your community at risk, then it’s critical we find a way to cut off the relationship between drug user and drug dealer.

If a welfare payment like Newstart is supposed to be a temporary payment to support people while they get back on their feet and find another job, then drugs make it harder to get a new job, and by extension make it too easy for that temporary payment to become a permanent dependency.

But welfare payments are funded by taxpayers, and if taxpayer money is going to criminal drug dealers, it’s important to put an end to it.

Cashless welfare cards do not reduce the value of a person’s payments. Nobody is a dollar worse off.

Cashless welfare cards simply take 80 per cent of a person’s welfare payment and direct it onto a card that can’t be used to withdraw cash. The other 20 per cent is treated as normal.

Because the cashless welfare card makes it harder to access large amounts of cash, it makes it harder for the recipient to purchase things that are only available on the black market. Drug dealers don’t have EFTPOS machines, so it’s either you’re on welfare, or you’re on drugs. You can’t be both.

Welfare money is an important part of the social safety net, and it’s important it stays there. Many of us have been in a position where we’ve had to rely on it to help make ends meet when things get hard.

It’s not a long-term solution and it’s not supposed to be.

In fact, welfare payments aren’t keeping up with the real cost of living. It’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet

And the public doesn’t like increasing money for welfare. One poll of Peter Dutton’s electorate found only one in four voters supported increasing the dollar value of unemployment benefits.[ii] More people supported cutting it than increasing it.

We need to reform the way we pay welfare to recipients to promote trust that what we’re paying isn’t being abused.

And unless we reform the way we’re paying out unemployment benefits, life for people who are trying to get by on them is going to get harder and harder.

The cashless welfare card does two, important things: it limits access to cash, and all the products that cash is necessary for, and as a consequence it boosts faith that whatever is being paid to welfare recipients is going to them for the right reasons. It’s supporting a family, not an addiction.

The Jacqui Lambie Network supports reform to the way we process welfare payments, including the introduction of the cashless welfare card.

We support it because we want payments to go up, not down. And they can’t go up until the community trusts that those extra dollars are going to dinner, not drugs.

We support it because we want drug dealers out of a job and unemployed people into a job. Drug dealers, who target vulnerable marginalised people such as welfare recipients, can’t sell someone drugs if they don’t have the cash they need to pay for it. And if you can’t buy drugs, your only option is to get a job.

We support it because it’s a circuit breaker the community needs. The cashless welfare card is the first policy intervention that punishes drug dealers instead of drug users. It starves them of demand for their product, and in doing so, it turns unemployable drug users into employable members of the community. That’s better for them, their families and their communities. The only person who’s worse off is the drug dealer.

[i] Lee, Nicole. "FactCheck Q&A: are rates of drug use 2.5 times higher among unemployed people than employed people?." The Conversation, 18 Sept. 2017, Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

[ii] The Australia Institute. "Voters oppose company tax cuts, dole cuts: Poll." The Australia Institute, Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.