Tony Abbott has hosed down the prospect of cutting welfare benefits to dole recipients who fail drug tests as he tries to limit fronts the Government is fighting on.
With the Government trying to rein in welfare spending, newspaper reports yesterday said as part of a move to simplify the social security system, the coalition was examining New Zealand's approach, which includes drug testing jobseekers.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews was quoted saying the Government would not rule the proposal in or out, but Mr Abbott dismissed the suggestion as "highly speculative".
"As far as I am aware, you couldn't even do that kind of thing without the co- operation of the States," the Prime Minister told Channel 10. "So it doesn't look to me like the sort of things that are likely."
He said later: "It's not something that we are planning, simple as that."
It was the second time in days Mr Abbott had to douse speculation fuelled by a senior minister that had distracted from selling the Budget. Last week he vetoed Education Minister Christopher Pyne's suggestion the Government could collect outstanding student debts from dead graduates' estates.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the mixed messages showed ministers did not know Budget details three weeks after it was released.