The government’s announcement in the May 2017 budget of a trial of random drug testing of 5,000 Youth Allowance and Newstart recipients has been almost universally criticised. While the prime minister claimed the program is “based on love”, the CEO of Jobs Australia has warned it will be so demeaning as to drive young people to sex work. And the government shows no sign of being overwhelmed by the reportedly “overwhelming” medical evidence that its policy will not work.

There is a certain amount of hyperbole on both sides of this issue, which is skewing the evidence. This makes it difficult to interpret, largely due to the lack of clarity on what the aims of this program are. Is it to help struggling addicts, reduce the number of drug users, or save money by reducing welfare payments?

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