Editorial: Drug testing reasonable

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2013

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OPINION: There was a bit of a to-do over the drug testing of beneficiaries in the latest round of benefit changes.

But now that the detail is out there, some scaremongering may have been going on.

The critics argued that it infringed human rights that payments could be cut should beneficiaries fail drug tests, the insinuation being the tests might be carried out anywhere at any time.

But that's not the case.

Beneficiaries will be required to undergo a drugs test if applying for a job that requires one, just like everyone else.

It's called being work ready. Which you should be if you are on an unemployment benefit, assuming the job is suitable for you.

And you get a couple of chances. If you fail a test or refuse to turn up for an interview because of the test, you have to agree to stop taking drugs.

Second time around you have to agree to take and pass a test within 25 working days, so that's really three chances. What then?

Only then will your benefit be cut, for 13 weeks, by half if you have dependent children or entirely if you don't.

All of which sounds fair enough.

As does the requirement to pay for failed drug tests, which simply hammers home the message that it is the individual's responsibility to be work ready.

There will still be those who say beneficiaries are being forced into applying for jobs they may not want or enjoy. Yet that applies to many people, who take whatever work they can get because that is better than having no work.

Or being on a benefit.

Another thing: The issue of GST on goods bought online from overseas is taxing the Government.

And New Zealand retailers.

The former sees hundreds of millions of dollars in potential income going begging, while the latter cries unfair over an uneven playing field.

And uneven it is.

By 15 per cent. Kiwi retailers have to load it on to all goods, whereas those buying online from overseas have a fair chance of avoiding GST.

This won't be an easy one to fix though, as Customs doesn't have the resources and nor would it be practicable to open every parcel coming into the country, and neither are banks keen to devise systems that add GST on online credit card transactions.

Which leaves New Zealand retailers where? With their main point of difference. Service, service, service.

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