Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (12:34): Firstly, let me thank the member for Bowman for bringing this motion forward. I think it’s very important and quite proper that we discuss this issue in this place. I thank the member for Dunkley for her comments as well, but I must take issue with her view that the proposals here are punitive. Ceduna is on my patch. It’s where the cashless debit card was first trialled, and it is simply not punitive. It doesn’t take away $1 from the recipients; it provides some parameters about how that money can be spent to try and limit the amount of money that is spent on alcohol, drugs and gambling. I stand by the card most passionately.
The other half of the suggestion of this motion is that not only would people go on the cashless debit card as a form of income management but also they would undertake counselling and treatment for their problem. The issue is that, at the moment, there is a whole group of people out there who we don’t know are on drugs. The system doesn’t know they’re on drugs. Their families might, but, by and large, the system is not responding or measuring the impact that this is having on their lives.
The first part of this motion extends its condolences to the Field and Leadbetter families, sadly mowed down by a 17-year-old who has been charged by a string of offences, including driving while being affected by intoxicating substances. The other charges would suggest that it’s not the first time.
Repeatedly employers tell me they do job interviews with people, not only young people, but then they don’t roll up for their first day of work because they know they won’t pass the drug test. Others tell me that they put people through training, and then they can’t pass or refuse the drug test. If you’ve got people in that situation and they’re on drugs already, it’s really important that government agencies know that we can adapt policy, that we can start to deliver services to try to break this nexus that sits in their life.
It’s so sad and confronting to me as a member of parliament that young people, in particular, are limiting their horizons in life. I say to people that it’s like taking a job—if you leave school and you’ve got five years on your CV where you have not been gainfully employed, there’s a fair chance that every prospective employer in your future will pick up that piece and paper and say, ‘What were you doing for five years?’ You’ve missed the opportunity, and that’s why it’s so important we get to the stage of early intervention.
I’m reminded of a meeting I went to in Whyalla with a group of parents and young people who were dealing with ice. A woman turned to me said: ‘My daughter’s trying to get off ice, but every one of the people in her peer group uses drugs. She hasn’t got a role model in the group of people she hangs out with that do not use drugs.’ How difficult is it for that person to break out of that system? If the system actually recognises why that kid failed a drug test then we could actually get some services in place. It is just so important. Identification by job-service providers like Centrelink of people who can’t pass a drug test, people who refuse a drug test and people who are a no-show at work after accepting a job or are a no-show for JobSeeker interviews is so important. This should be an average day’s work for governments to make sure that we identify the people that are struggling in this area and do something about it to help them, the sooner the better.
The legislation to enable this move was passed through the House of Representatives not quite 18 months ago, on 17 October. It’s not been debated in the Senate yet. I understand it’s been pushed back because of COVID and other things, but it was probably largely pushed back because we don’t feel as though we’ve got the support throughout the Senate to get the legislation through. I hope that changes. Anyone who would deny this reform is denying kids an opportunity, denying them a chance to access the tools that they need to face modern society, and we should be out there helping them in every way we possibly can.