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The Drug Testing Of Welfare Recipients Is The Most Dominant Story Of The Moment

More than a quarter of the most popular political stories in the last three weeks have focused on those on welfare.

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A BuzzFeed News analysis of the 100 most popular news stories from the Budget has found the government's drug testing for welfare trial dominated the headlines.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

BuzzFeed News used social monitoring tool BuzzSumo (no relation) to pull the data from the top 100 most shared federal politics news stories across Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms from the last three weeks.

Here's what we found.

1. The most popular story from the Budget was this ABC News report about independent senator Jacqui Lambie calling for politicians to be drug tested.

ABC News

It was published the morning after the Budget and shared an astronomical 33,800 times across social media networks.

For a local story about Australian politics, that's a lot. Just to be clear, it means 33,800 individual people posted it on their Facebook feeds or Twitter timelines, potentially exposing it to hundreds of thousands more people.


2. The drug testing trial appeared a number of times in the top 20, as did stories about Greens senator Larissa Waters becoming the first woman to breastfeed in federal parliament.

1. "Federal budget 2017: Lambie welcomes welfare drug tests, calls for same regime for politicians", ABC News, 10/5/17... Shares: 33,800.

2. "How Australia Bungled Its $36 Billion High-Speed Internet Rollout", NY Times, 11/15/17... Shares: 21,500.

3. "Senator Larissa Waters soothes adorable newborn girl", The Daily Mail, 9/5/17... Shares: 21,100.

4. "History made as Larissa Waters breastfeeds baby daughter in Senate", Fairfax, 9/5/17... Shares: 20,700.

5. "Federal Budget 2017: Government clamps down on welfare cheats with drug-testing program", Nine News, 9/5/17... Shares: 15,600.

6. "Senator Larissa Waters' baby first to be breastfed in Federal Parliament", ABC News, 9/5/17... Shares: 15,400.

7. "Budget 2017: Winners and losers", ABC News, 9/5/17... Shares: 14,700.

8. "AMA throws its weight behind same-sex marriage, declares it a health issue", Fairfax, 19/5/17... Shares: 12,800.

9. "Federal Labor backtracking on support of Adani's planned Carmichael coal mine", ABC News, 30/4/17... Shares: 12,600.

10. "Budget 2017: Universities to be hit with funding cuts, student fees to rise", Fairfax, 1/5/17... Shares: 11,900.

11. "Welfare crackdown on not-so-single parents", Sunrise, 15/5/17... Shares: 11,800.

12. "Budget 2017: Welfare recipients to be drug tested", SBS News, 10/5/17... Shares: 11,300.

13. "Politicians, why don't you submit to drug testing?", Fairfax, 10/5/17... Shares: 11,200

14. "Scott Morrison says sewage will be tested to find areas of high drug use for welfare trial", Guardian, 11/5/17... Shares: 11,100.

15. "New government child vaccination measure will cut families tax benefits if they refuse to vaccinate", Yahoo7, 30/4/17... Shares: 11,000.

16. "'Keep at it, it’s great': Turnbull praises Trump for major step in dismantling Obamacare", Nine News, 5/5/17... Shares: 10,900.

17. "History as Larissa Waters breastfeeds baby in Senate", SBS News, 9/5/17... Shares: 10,800.

18. "Penny Wong takes aim at religious 'fundamentalism' blocking same-sex marriage", Fairfax, 17/5/17... Shares: 10,700.

19. "When I heard about welfare drug testing, I thought of a young mother I once treated | Richard Di Natale", Guardian, 11/5/17... Shares: 10,400.

20. "Politicians' children downgraded from business class to economy", ABC News, 8/5/17... Shares: 10,200.

3. If you break the top 100 down by topic, drug testing accounts for 15% of all the stories, followed by the government's other welfare measures (11%) and cuts to universities (9%).


If you combine the drug trial with the other stories around social services, more than a quarter of the most popular news stories around the Budget were related to the government's so-called "welfare crackdown".

Last week BuzzFeed News reported a YouGov poll which showed two thirds of Australians supported the government's drug testing trials, meaning the most widely shared policy from the Budget was also broadly popular with the mainstream public.

One final thought: The government's attention is now focused on legislating and selling the controversial banking tax, which is the new political story of the day. Not one story about the banking tax appeared in the top 100.

4. The free ABC News website published nearly a quarter of the most popular stories about federal politics in the last three weeks.


Some commercial news websites have complained very publicly about how ABC News online undermines their chance of reaching a larger audience.

This list appears to show people trust ABC News online stories about politics and they're sharing them on a huge scale.

Meanwhile, Fairfax had 23% of the share and it was on strike for seven days over the Budget period.

News Corp's numbers are split among several different tabloid mastheads and in some cases its exclusive stories are not shared widely because they're behind paywalls.

5. Labor went under the radar.

ABC News/BuzzFeed

Despite having a Budget reply, stories about Labor made up just 5% of the total, with the ABC News report about a potential backdown in supporting the Queensland Adani coal mine the most popular.

It didn't help that on the eve of the Budget Labor made a big blunder with its whitewashed Australians First ad.

6. Australians LOVE political content on satirical news websites.

Betoota Advocate/SBS Comedy

We excluded popular satirical stories, from websites such as the Betoota Advocate, SBS Comedy and The Chaser, from the final top 100 news stories list.

If they were included, 8% of the list would be satirical political content, including the Betoota Advocate's story about Peter Dutton hiring Ja Rule, which was shared 17,300 times, and SBS Comedy's Budget Tips for Idiot Millennials which raked in more than 4,300 shares.

7. There is no such thing as fake news in Australia.

PBS News Hour / Via

Not a single entry in the top 100 was from a source outside the "Mainstream Media". No dodgy websites. No random blogs. Nothing.

The media panic around "fake news" does not bear out down under. Rather it's been used by politicians to try and delegitimise news stories they don't like.

Mark Di Stefano is a Media and Politics Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

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