Saturday 13 May 2017

What on earth has Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison been inhaling?

Australian Treasurer and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison displaying his disconnect from reality…..

The Guardian, 11 May 2017:

Scott Morrison’s plan to test wastewater to identify welfare recipients on drugs will only highlight the high levels of drug use among professionals working in “the finer leafy suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney”, an expert on the Victorian government’s ice action taskforce, John Ryan, has said.

Ryan, who is also chief executive of the not-for-profit drug research organisation the Penington Institute, also accused the treasurer of implementing “a new regime of big brother”.

Ryan was responding to Morrison’s comments during an interview with BuzzFeed on Thursday morning that areas of high drug use were “the best place to start” trials of drug testing for 5,000 Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients. Those welfare recipients with positive drug test results will be forced on to cashless welfare cards restricting cash withdrawals and barring the purchase of certain products.

Sewage testing of chemical compounds in raw wastewater is used by scientists and researchers to estimate the consumption and prevalence of drug use in cities and towns. This chemical analysis can also point to a population’s health and lifestyle habits, and can indicate changing drug trends over time of the population connected to the sewer system.

But Ryan said what the testing could not accurately pinpoint was how many people were using.

“It is not laser accurate when it comes to how many people are using as there are too many assumptions in the model,” Ryan said.

“It is not yet developed to the stage where you can identify a high number of users in a community. You can more likely predict how many standard doses of a drug have been taken, which is very different to how many people and which people are using. Some drug users might use once every four hours, some might use once every four months.”

He said a high number of working professionals used drugs.

“It might misfire if the government think they can rely on some chemical test of wastewater as we know drug use is expensive and more common drugs such as cannabis are consumed by people in the workforce,” he said.

“Using the wastewater approach, they will find high amounts in the wastewater of the finer leafy suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney.

The Penington Institute has warned the government that targeting welfare recipients with drug testing will see an increase in crime and homelessness among Australia’s most vulnerable people.

People on welfare who were using drugs had complex mental health needs and to risk their welfare because they were using drugs of dependence was not an appropriate response, Ryan said.

“We don’t need wastewater analysis to identify what everyone in the drug treatment sector knows,” Ryan said.
“The treasurer could talk to doctors, he could look at drug and mental health treatment waiting lists, it shouldn’t be hard to identify where people are desperate and in need.”

Then there is this exercise in cuckoo land thinking…….

Dept. of Social Security, Welfare Reform 2017 Budget, 10 May 2017:

Job seekers aged 55-59 years

Currently, recipients are excused from worksearch if they satisfy their requirements through volunteering. From 20 September 2018, recipients will only be able to meet half (15 hours) of their annual activity requirement of 30 hours per fortnight through volunteering— flexibility will exist for some recipients in areas of high unemployment.

Job seekers aged 60 years to Age Pension age

Currently, recipients over 60 currently have no annual activity requirements. From 20 September 2018, recipients will have 10 hours of annual activity requirements per fortnight which they will be able to meet through volunteering.

In the Clarence Valley on the NSW Far North Coast (ABS June 2016 est. population 51,211) at least an est. 40 per cent of the total population is 50 years of age and over – with est. 8 per cent being between 55 years and 59 years of age and est. 15 per cent  being between 60 years old and retirement age.

In the small town (catchment est. 6,337 persons) where I live an est. 55 per cent of the local population is 50 years of age and older – with est. 7 per cent being between 55 years and 59 years of age and est. 18 per cent being between 60 years old and retirement age.

In 2017 the unemployment rate in the statistical region covering the Clarence Valley was the highest in the state and, the seniors unemployment rate ranges from est. 11 to 20 per cent in many valley towns.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2015 there were only 3,809 businesses recorded in the Clarence Valley and not all of these employed staff. There are few employment opportunities advertised and there appears to be no lack of existing volunteers to fill unpaid positions in the community.

When it comes to any national index of relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage the valley probably still ranks around 2 out of a possible 10, which is a good indication that many of the over 19,000 households - approx. 28 per cent of which are probably lone person households - will have insufficient resources to weather any reduction in existing household income. 

So with few paid employment or volunteer opportunities which would meet the mandatory 10 to 30 hours of mutual obligation activity a fortnight, limited ‘public’ transport to get to any of these scarce positions and so many people facing a fight to find the required hours every week or lose their Centrelink Jobseeker benefit in 2018 – a veritable social and economic train wreck is likely to occur here come September next year.

For that we will have every Liberal and Nationals federal senator and MP to thank, because not even Morrison would have been this heartless without encouragement from the ranks.

Scott Morrison, 9 May 2017, being congratulated by Coalition MPs

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