Voice of Real Australia: Cannabis OK in the capital as welfare recipients in the west face government's drug test

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Mandurah Mail editor Gareth McKnight.

The territory's legislation - an Australian first - removes any penalty for possessing up to 50 grams of dry cannabis, or 150 grams of "fresh cannabis", and for growing up to two plants.

Under the bill passed with Labor and Greens support, each household can grow a maximum of four plants but hydroponic growing would still be illegal - as this Canberra Times article explains.

Meanwhile, debate over the Federal Government's plans to drug-test welfare recipients continues in the Western Australian community of Mandurah - one of three "guinea pig" locations proposed to host a trial of the scheme.

So, the eyes of the country could well be on Mandurah's young unemployed and other job-seekers. Should they fail a mandatory drug test, they will be directed to support services and have their entitlements predominantly delivered on cashless welfare cards.

Independent cross-bencher Senator Jacqui Lambie could be critical in the legislation getting through Parliament, with the tough-talking Tasmanian initially putting the kibosh on the Coalition's plans.

However, the proposal, which was first floated in 2017, appears to have the support of many Mandurah residents, while Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has been vocal in backing the trial.

DOLE CHECK: Andrew Hastie supports the drug-testing of welfare recipients in his WA electorate.

DOLE CHECK: Andrew Hastie supports the drug-testing of welfare recipients in his WA electorate.

The Member for Canning has stated the government proposal would help those struggling with drug addiction and prepare Mandurah's unemployed for the workforce.

However, given the complexities and unchartered nature of the drug-testing scheme, there understandably has also been some local and national trepidation.

Greens Senator Senator Rachel Siewert has been a strong opponent and told South Australia's West Coast Sentinel on a recent trip to the remote town of Ceduna that cashless welfare cards stigmatised those forced to use them.

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams says the issue is 'massively complex' and has expressed concerns about the availability of associated support services.

Mr Hastie has assured the community that help will be on hand should the trial go ahead, but Mandurah's existing service providers already have a big job on their hands.

The Mandurah Mailreported last month that the Peel Health Hub, an Australian-first one-stop shop housing nine service providers under one roof, has been feeling the strain since opening last year.

While the drug-testing of welfare recipients may ultimately lead to positive outcomes in communities like Mandurah, Logan and the other proposed trial area in Sydney's Canterbury-Bankstown, we will need to leave the politics out of it and focus on providing the right support to get people off drugs and into jobs.

Community embraces crime mystery podcast

Episode three of Mandurah Mail reporter Carla Hildebrandt's true-crime podcast, Annette: Cold Case Unlocked, has been released this week.

The series, which tells the story of the mysterious death of teenager Annette Deverell in Mandurah in the 1980s, has been heard around the world on podcast apps, and it's pleasing to report that it has been welcomed in the local community too.

Given almost 40 years has passed and Annette's family have had no answers, the Mandurah Mail has been inundated with messages from residents providing new information and thanking Carla for her efforts to remind authorities about a forgotten victim who deserves justice.

Gareth McKnight

Editor, Mandurah Mail

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