Australia’s new mandatory drug testing for the unemployed is just the more of the NLP shamelessly shitting on the poor

Australia’s new mandatory drug testing for the unemployed is just the more of the NLP shamelessly shitting on the poor

By E.F Nicholson

Australia’s ruling conservative party, the NLP, works off a similar playbook to the Republicans in the US and the Tories in the UK. When popularity is low and they are appearing to lose backing from parties even further to their right, they sit down and work out who next on their list they can bash down to drum up support from the party base.

They do this knowing they will get the full backing of Murdoch press to amplify and successfully stoke up whatever fear or resentment is required.  Muslims and refugees have been a great source of ‘pretend problems’ to focus on, and the indigenous population deals with much the same. Of late, gay marriage was successfully turned from a non-issue to an issue. All this helps ensure their ‘conservative and tough’ credentials, whilst creating convenient distractions as they get on with the business of what they really do best: shafting the public while enriching their buddies. Once again, they must have sat down and brainstormed on who’s next to politically defecate on. In a closed door meeting it must have gone something along the lines of….

 “OK, we need a voiceless minority that our voter base universally despises. Who can we choose?”  asks PM Malcom Turnbull.

“What about poor people?” says social services minister Christian Porter.

“Umm…” ponders Malcom. “It’s a good start, but it’s too broad.”

“What about unemployed poor people?” asks an excited Australian wannabe, Barnaby Joyce.

“OK, now we are on to something, but they still need to be more wretched,” says Malcom.

“What about poor people who are unemployed but who also have a debilitating addiction problem?” exclaims tough guy MP Andre Laming.

“Bingo!” says Malcom elatedly. “I am worse than Trump after all.” He manically laughs.

 “This will be great. We will force them to take a mandatory drug test if they want to be eligible for income support.  It ticks all our NLP policy guidelines. It’s cruel, degrading, useless, and the voters will love it. Even better, I’ll outsource the testing to a mate of mine that runs a lab — they can over-charge the government whilst we hide the cost under ‘commercial confidentiality’. So while we lecture the unemployed about government waste, we can simultaneously be wasting money, so it’s also hypocritical. Totally genius. Moet and cigars, everyone?”

The reality is that mandatory drug tests in order to receive some form of government benefits is wrong on many different levels. Firstly, there is the issue of the underlying premise. That is, if the government is willing to provide you with an income subsidy while you are in the process of attempting to find gainful employment (money you could argue that you have earned, if you have been paying tax or in the future will be paying tax) you forfeit your right to privacy by providing the government with a urine sample to test if you have been taking illegal drugs. The assumption of innocent until proven guilty  is relinquished and the reverse  is adopted, as it’s assumed you are a drug user and the onus is then on you to prove you are not. The cost of that presumption of guilt is passed onto the tax payer for the cost of the drug test itself, which is then passed on to a private ‘for profit’ company the government contracts.

Yet if we follow this logic, anyone who is a recipient of any government money should also be forced into mandatory drug testing — including all public servants, be it nurses, doctors, government employees, police, firefighters, and in particular ‘politicians’. Seeing as they are all the recipients of ‘our tax dollars, the same logic should apply and they should have to take drug tests to prove their trust worthiness that ‘our tax dollars’ are being not used in dens of iniquities. In addition, the employees of any private enterprise which also receives government money, tax credits, or any form income or subsidy via the government should also be forced to take mandatory drug tests, from the simple office worker all the way to the CEO, and let’s start with Gina Rinehart. Yet we also know this isn’t going to happen, and the reason is obvious — none of this is about helping people with drug addiction, rather just a shameless bashing down on poor people in order to drum up support from their base.

Then, in addition to the selectiveness of only some people who receive government money being forced to take drug tests and not others, people’s right to privacy shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet solely because they require some level of income support whilst being unemployed. Police don’t have the right to burst through your front door and search your whole house for drugs unless they have a search warrant, which is contingent on some level of probable cause. Yet get the dole and the right to the privacy of the content your urine in your bladder is no longer yours. Why stop there? Why not track all their internet use? Why not GPS track every movement they are making with their government subsided time?

Once again, this is all about playing into the baseless fear along the lines of “Those lazy dole bulgers, spending my hard-earned tax dollars smoking ice and drinking expensive champagne with the company of high-end escorts, because, you know, that’s how the unemployed roll.”  Then if you look at the reality of drug addiction it’s been shown that punitive and shaming policies do not work. There are now enough research, studies, and examples of how this doesn’t work that I don’t believe the Turnbull government aren’t aware of it, rather they just simply don’t care.  Portugal’s decriminalisation of drug use and moving to treat drug addiction as health problem, rather than a criminal problem, has shown amazing results. If the government genuinely cared about dealing with drug addiction they could easily implement something along these lines. Yet if an overhaul of the criminal justice system and  public policy on drug law would benefit Australian society but lose  NLP voters’ support, well, we know how things get chosen. As an article from TIME points out:

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

“Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

We also see that in places like the US that have run similar programs, they predictably failed. In an article revealingly titled “Michigan’s drug-testing welfare program has yielded zero positive results so far” it states:

Rana Elmir of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which successfully challenged the 1999 program in court and called on the state to abandon the current iteration. “This program was voluntarily scrapped by the state because it proved to be unproductive and expensive. Resources should be invested to train government employees to appropriately screen and identify those with addictions and help them through expanded treatment plans. Not only has this worked in other states but addiction experts agree that this is the best tactic to help those dealing with addiction.”

Harris, of congresswoman Moore’s office, said drug and substance abuse “knows no economic or social distinctions. As we’ve seen time and time again, these misguided policies are devoid of any scientific credibility and have proven to be a colossal waste of our time and money.”

I guess the Turnbull government didn’t get that memo.

The experts and data available say that policies such as these won’t and don’t curb addiction. Terminating someone’s only source of income because they are suffering from an addiction will just push them further into self-destruction, humiliation, and possibly crime. And the cry of “Well, we just want to help them,” is totally dishonest when firstly, its known this won’t help them, and secondly, why is it only the unemployed that the government needs to involuntarily intervene with and coerce into drug treatment? Why aren’t other sections of the public who have addictions forced into getting help ‘for their own good’? Say like barristers or judges?  Haha, LOL, ROFL, I guess you can also say.

Then when you read through the actual details of the program, it’s laughable. If you test positive for drug use the first time, you have your “income stabilised”, meaning you can’t get any more than a certain amount from the ATM at once. The theory is this meant to stop you using your whole income allowance all in one go on a giant stash of drugs, because hey, that’s what crazy drug addicts do, right? I mean, whose idea was this? Haven’t any of these people spoken to active drug users? As a former active drug user myself, managing your habit won’t be curtailed by not being able to withdraw certain amounts, it will just be adapted. What frontline people know is that active drug users will find ways around this. Those who don’t and are forced into treatment will just do what they have to do and get back on it, because you just can’t ‘make’ people be willing and able to quit. Maybe by chance the forced treatment may coincide with someone being ready, but that will be a credit to them, not the government. Then let’s not even look at the hypocrisy and absurdity that someone may test positive twice of cannabis use and be forced off their benefits, or into ‘drug treatment’: yet the person administering the test, also paid via the government, can be getting drunk and smoking cigarettes every night of the week and that’s ‘no problemo’.

Drug addiction is a problem that the government could genuinely tackle by decriminalising drugs and ending the useless war on drugs, as well as investing heavily in frontline services to help people get the support and resources they require. They could also be willing to tackle the deeper issues involved in mental health and drug addiction, which are intimately connected: why do people feel the need to use? Focus on demand, instead of supply. What underlying psychological and societal factors compel people into such vortexes of self-destruction? There is a growing body of research that points to addiction being a problem, not because drugs are addictive, but because certain people have unresolved trauma and an inability to connect, so they use addictive substances to substitute their lack of connection and numb their pain.  In the article The Opposite of Addiction is Connection  in Psychology Today, it states:

 In an increasingly widely disseminated TED Talk titled “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong,” British journalist Johann Hari discusses the available research into the underlying causes of addiction and concludes, rather brilliantly, that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection. His statement echoes a theme that I and many 21st Century addiction specialists have espoused for years — that addiction is not about the pleasurable effects of substances, it’s about the user’s inability to connect in healthy ways with other human beings. In other words, addiction is not a substance disorder, it’s a social disorder.

A policy that addresses these wider issues whilst tackling the actual face of the problem as it stands today would reflect that government did genuinely care. Yet as far as the NLP line of thinking goes, there is no ‘social disorder’. For them, the current order is pretty tip-top. So what we see here is just more of the same kind of policy that’s shameless, cynical, cruel, wasteful, and useless. I guess it’s not surprising, at least.

Malcom loves pee-pee Meme from https://www.facebook.com/maainterchange/ 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s