A grab bag of welfare changes has been set back several months after hitting a hurdle in the Senate, despite controversial drug tests being put on ice.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter hoped to push 200 pages worth of welfare measures through parliament on Thursday, but they were snagged in the upper house and will have to wait until next year.
Several time-sensitive aspects, including scrapping some payments, have been kicked down the road.
“I would have liked to see it get through,” Mr Porter conceded to reporters in Sydney on Friday.
“But all indications are the welfare reform bill will have a majority of votes and we will get it through as soon as we resume in February next year.”
Labor and the Greens are fierce critics of most of the changes, but the minister is confident he has the crucial backing of the Senate cross bench.
“The only part of the bill we’ve been having difficulty with is the drug testing trial, which is designed to use the welfare system to compel people into treatment and break down barriers to employment,” Mr Porter said.
His widely-panned plans to drug test 5000 unemployed welfare recipients from January next year were shelved this week after the Senate shot down the idea.
Anyone who tested positive would have been shunted onto cashless welfare cards, while those who failed more than once would be referred to medical professionals for treatment.
Mr Porter will try again to win over the cross bench during the long summer break, believing the proposed trials in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia are still within reach.
He will also need to secure cross bench support for introducing cashless welfare cards to two new trial sites, after Labor and the Greens vowed to block the expansions.
The stalled welfare bill also seeks to tighten exemptions for drug and alcohol dependence, increase wait times for unemployment payments, and axe the wife pension and bereavement allowance.
The opposition has indicated it will only back a demerit-point system for people who persistently dodge job-seeking obligations if greater safeguards are put in place.
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