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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017

The submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee’s (the Committee) inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 was prepared by the Law Council. 

The Law Council is grateful for the assistance of its National Human Rights Committee, the Law Society of New South Wales and the Law Institute of Victoria in the preparation of this submission.

The Bill seeks to introduce a new, single jobseeker payment, which will replace or consolidate seven existing payments in order to simplify the working-age payment system.1 It also aims to ‘strengthen’ welfare conditionality for jobseekers with drug and alcohol abuse issues and better encourage and support them to pursue treatment.2

The Law Council provides comments primarily in respect of Schedule 12 of the Bill.

Schedule 12 of the Bill would set up a pilot scheme where, in three selected areas, recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance would be ‘randomly’ picked via a ‘data driven profiling tool’ that would identify ‘relevant characteristics that indicate a higher risk of substance abuse issues’ to undergo drug testing.3

The Law Council understands that the drug testing trial areas would be selected by considering a range of factors, including crime statistics, drug use statistics, social security data and health service availability.4

The Law Council is concerned that the approach taken in Schedule 12 of the Bill has not been demonstrated to be a necessary or proportionate response to dealing with alcohol and drug dependency issues within the welfare system. These issues are complex and require nuanced policy responses.

You can read the full submission below.

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