'Meth capital of WA' likely to become a welfare drug testing hotspot: Greens

The 'meth capital of WA' is likely to become one of the locations for the Turnbull government's new drug testing for job seekers, according to the Australian Greens.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday night the government would next year randomly drug test 5000 Australians applying for welfare payments as part of a host of welfare reforms.

Those who fail the drug test for methylamphetamine, marijuana and ecstasy will have their payments quarantined and instead be put on cashless welfare cards.

The trial will run in three locations from January 2018 and Social Services Minister Christian Porter said it would "ensure taxpayer money was not being used to fund drug addictions for dangerous substances such as ice and that people in these situations are given every assistance to improve their lives".

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert is worried the government will be using data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program in March to make Bunbury, in WA's South West, a guinea pig in the new trial.

The program, which tested raw sewage for methamphetamine and 12 other illicit and licit substances, found Bunbury was the 'meth capital of WA' with an average of 558 doses each week per 1,000 people. 

According to the report, the national average of daily meth consumption is around one dose per 28 people.

Overall, the study revealed WA was using around two tonnes of meth per year, with a street value of around $2 billion.

"The government said they will use sewerage testing to help find 5000 people struggling with drug addiction who are applying for income support so that they can be tested," Ms Siewert said.

"This is a huge breach of civil liberties and demonises people struggling with addiction that should be supported and treated through the health system.

"Sewerage testing by ACIC has shown that WA has the highest level of methylamphetamine addiction in the country, while Bunbury was identified last year as having the highest level of for methylamphetamine addiction in WA in testing carried out by the state."

Ms Siewert said Bunbury could be the first town to have the new cashless welfare cards if locals fail to pass drug tests.

She is a harsh critic of the cashless card that was rolled out last year by the Turnbull government for welfare recipients in Ceduna in South Australia and the East Kimberley region in Western Australia.

"Bunbury needs assistance to help people to address issues with addiction, they need more funding and supports to provide a health based approach," Ms Siewert said.

"The law and order approach to drug use has clearly failed, it needs to be treated as the health problem that it is."

The WA Council of Social Services CEO Louise Giolitto slammed the new welfare reform when it was announced on Tuesday.

"What we have seen tonight is more pointless nastiness directed to those on income support," she said in a release.

"The social security system is simply insufficient to meet the basic costs of living, causing entrenched disadvantage in our communities.

"This budget once again demonises and attacks those who deserve our support, undermining their ability to secure ongoing employment."

Bunbury Mail.

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