Shearer: Drug testing announcement cynical

By Kate Shuttleworth

Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Paul Estcourt

An announcement about drug testing beneficiaries is a "cynical" distraction from an important expert panels' advice on solutions to child poverty, Labour leader David Shearer says.

The policy to drug test beneficiaries was not new and was a "re-announcement" by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, he said.

Mr Shearer said the minister was trying to detract from the release of a report into child poverty by an expert panel for the Children's Commissioner today.

"It's hugely cynical that the very date the Children's Commissioner is coming out with a report on children that Paula Bennett has chosen to re-announce this policy.

"It's moving the debate away from the real issues about poverty and onto something she's already talked about before,'' said Mr Shearer.

Mrs Bennett said drug testing of beneficiaries would start in July next year.

She said reports the drug testing policy will cost more than it will save were untrue.

"We think the real cost is around $3 million for those that will be known as dependent, once this testing comes in. The savings are estimated to be around $10.5 million," she said.

Mr Shearer said drug testing was hugely expensive and the money should provide meals in schools instead.

Labour's social welfare spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the drug testing policy would not properly tackle the problem.

"The bottom line is we do want to get people into work - and if drug use is an issue, we do want to address this."

She said there was merit to addressing drug use that stands in the way of beneficiaries moving into work but said the policy has some serious question marks over it.

- APNZ

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