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Wren's Week: The Coalition ignores the experts and proceeds with drug testing

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Coalition Government are happy to disregard expert advice once again (Screenshot via YouTube)

The Government has given the go-ahead for drug testing of welfare recipients, despite expert advice showing its negative impact, writes John Wren.

I TYPE THIS while listening to the fractious and incoherent rabble that inhabits the Treasury Benches during Question Time. When one listens to the inanities, embellishments and outright lies being peddled by the Government in response to legitimate questions from the opposition and independents, it becomes obvious why Parliamentary sitting days have been so reduced this year. Even the Coalition Government doesn’t want its incompetence on such public display.

Today, the Government passed its drug-testing of welfare recipients Bill through the lower house. Labor opposed it, but simply didn’t have the numbers to block it. It now moves to the Senate. The action to drug-test welfare recipients is Liberal Party ideology through and through. It assumes many people can’t find a job because they are taking drugs.

This is in direct contradiction to expert advice and the experiences of other jurisdictions around the world that have tried it, including New Zealand. It stigmatises jobseekers as junkies. The real reason people can’t find jobs is that there simply aren’t enough to go around. It has nothing whatsoever to do with drug use.

Ignoring expert advice, though, is par for the course for the Liberals. This deliberate ignorance has created the economic malaise we are now in. It is a result of an absolute devotion to free market ideologies and/or conservative thinking that bears little resemblance to any real-world situations. The IPA, which drives Liberal Party policy, is the main culprit in much of this. They operate in the shady background with opaque funding (allegedly via mining companies including those of Gina Rinehart).

Let’s take the time to look at some of the other issues about which the Liberal Government has chosen to ignore expert advice:

Medevac

One would think the best people to advise on the medical evacuation of sick refugees from Nauru would be doctors and other allied health professionals. You would be correct. The Australian Medical Association has taken a very strong stance on this, stating publicly that the Medevac legislation should not be repealed. The Libs’ major grievance about the legislation is that it was achieved against their Government earlier this year. They lost the vote while sitting in Government. It is simply an embarrassment for them.

Peter Dutton, of course, claims it’s a back-door entry for terrorists into Australia, despite him retaining the right of veto over individuals with known terrorist links. What Dutton is suggesting is terrorists will sail to Australia from parts unknown, get themselves arrested and sent to Nauru, where they will then be able to feign illness to get into Australia. A little farfetched. To shrink Dutton’s flailing credibility still further, he actually exercised his right of veto for the first time this week, thereby proving the innocuousness of the legislation.

Climate Change

97 per cent of the world’s climate scientists are in raging agreement that climate change is real and is man-made, largely through the industrial-scale burning of fossil fuels. We are already seeing the effects of it with extreme weather events becoming more common across the globe. Australia’s current crippling drought is a result of it. For how long do we keep calling it a drought? Perhaps we should be calling it by its real term — desertification.

However, many in the Government are climate change denialists, which explains why they have taken so little action to address our emissions (they’ve gone up every year since they removed the Gillard-era ETS, the so-called “carbon tax”). Their denialism is largely coal-funded, via donations from mining companies. It explains their fascination with coal. Who can forget Prime Minister Scott Morrison bringing a lump of coal into the House of Reps? He may as well have spit in the face of every Australian under 30, who will be forced to live through a dystopian warmer climate long after he has departed the scene.

Newstart

Apart from drug testing Newstart recipients, the Government has kept Newstart so low that it is actually restricting recipients’ ability to look for work. There is no money for public transport or petrol to get to job interviews, to buy nice clothes for these interviews, let alone for food to eat and a roof over their heads.

Experts such as KPMG have made strident calls to raise the rate of Newstart. Apart from it simply being the right thing to do, it would also be an excellent economic stimulus. Almost every cent of the increase would be spent back into the economy immediately. It would be a tremendous boost to our struggling retail sector.

But of course, the Government has ignored that advice completely. They have refused to even model it. In fact, harking back to their moronic belief that welfare recipients are all junkies, Liberal Senator Anne Ruston suggested any increase would just be spent on drugs. She is unfit for public office.

Cashless Welfare Card

I’ve written about the cashless welfare card before. Again, the CWC seeks to ensure that money paid to welfare recipients is not spent on drugs and alcohol, however, it also stigmatises welfare recipients, as every time they go to make a purchase using the card they are publicly identified as “dole bludgers”. It’s akin to the Nazis making Jews wear yellow stars. It’s a public humiliation.

Independent research has indicated that the card does more psychological damage to its enforced users and drives up the costs of groceries, as only certain stores accept the card. It means they can’t buy cheaper groceries from stores that don’t participate. Yet the Government is sticking to its ground and will keep rolling the card out regardless of the groundswell of opinion against it.

It fits in with their well-honed welfare-bashing narrative. It is also strongly rumoured many Liberal and National Party members, and donors, stand to gain substantially from the card’s roll-out, and so corruption is playing its part here too.

These are just a few examples where the Government has ignored expert advice in favour of its own sick and twisted conservative ideologies. Others include the Religious Freedom Bill, media ownership policy and, of course, the biggest of all, the need for economic stimulus to help our failing economy. Experts such as the IMF and the Reserve Bank have both stated publicly that more than just interest rate cuts are now needed to save the Australian economy.

The Government, of course, true to form, is ignoring the advice and continues to chase its futile meaningless surplus. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg himself more or less admitted he’d let the economy plunge into recession rather than risk his ridiculous and unnecessary surplus.

Australians deserve better than this. We expect our representatives to source the best advice from around the world and then act on it for the betterment of all Australians. Clinging to ridiculous unproven ideologies in the face of overwhelming conflicting evidence is a sign of insanity.

Can someone send the men with white coats to The Lodge? Psychotic Scott Morrison needs urgent help.

You can sign the petition to have John Wren reinstated on Twitter here.

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