Political Parties Argue Plans to Extend Cashless Debit Card
6 December 2017 at 5:09 pm
Federal plans to extend the controversial trial sites of the cashless debit card have resulted in a dispute between the government, Labor and the Greens about the location and ongoing consultation around the new sites.
Federal Labor has supported the continuation of the existing cashless debit card trial sites in Ceduna and the East Kimberley.
However Labor announced it would not support the rollout of the cashless debit card to the two new proposed sites of Bundaberg and the Goldfields which is included in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 now before Parliament.
The card isolates 80 per cent of welfare payments and can’t be used for illegal drugs, alcohol or gambling, and has been trialled in Kununurra, Wyndham and the South Australian town of Ceduna since 2016.
Labor spokesperson Jenny Macklin said the decision not to support the new trial sites was “due to insufficient consultation with these communities, and the widespread criticism of the evaluation and the effectiveness of the card”.
Long time opponent of the cashless debit card, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, said she could not understand why Labor opposed the new sites but agreed with extending the trials in the existing sites.
“I am disappointed that Labor supports the existing trial sites being extended in Ceduna and the East Kimberley while opposing the new sites,” Siewert said.
“I am happy the Labor party listened to evidence given to the senate inquiry… and decided to oppose expanded cashless welfare card trials in Bundaberg and the Goldfields.
“However, with acknowledgement of ‘widespread criticism of the evaluation and the effectiveness of the card’, you have to wonder why the Labor party aren’t opposing the cashless welfare card in its entirety.
“Residents in Ceduna and the East Kimberley should not continue to be forced to live under this flawed approach.”
Federal Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge condemned the Labor Party for opposing the extension of the cashless debit card and said Labor was “effectively turning its back on desperate communities plagued by drug, alcohol and gambling abuse”.
“It was introduced with the support of local leaders to combat the excessive welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse,” Tudge said.
“As pointed out by East Kimberly elder, Ian Trust, the card was supported because, ‘alcohol abuse is destroying our community and our culture – and devastating the lives of children’. It is estimated that in many remote communities, a quarter of all babies are born brain damaged from alcohol abuse.”
Tudge said recent research found that 41 per cent of those already on the scheme were drinking less, 48 per cent were gambling less and taking fewer drugs, and 40 per cent said they were better able to care for children.
“In the Goldfields, each of the elected councils in the region supported its introduction. There were over 270 consultations undertaken,” he said.
“In Bundaberg/Hervey Bay, there were over 110 consultations, including public forums, and a community wide survey of which 75 per cent responded in favour of the card.”
The cashless credit card system was a recommendation of the welfare review by billionaire businessman Andrew Forrest and championed by his Minderoo Foundation.
As political parties debated the value of the new trial sites, the Minderoo Foundation delivered a technology report to the federal government with 11 recommendations aimed at “smoothing out user issues with the card”.
Minderoo Foundation CEO Bruce Mansfield said: “We know that, in the initial trial sites, the card is helping to reduce alcohol, drug and gambling use by up to 48 per cent. But we also know there are improvements that can be made in regard to purchasing.
“Minderoo has been leading a working group of technology experts from across the banking, retail and government sectors to address the current limitations of the card.
“By leveraging their collective knowledge and industry experience, the recommendations in this report encapsulate strong support from those who will ultimately be responsible for orchestrating change.
“The key focus of the report has been to provide recommendations to government to progress social outcomes, improve the participant and merchant experience, create a scalable solution and provide a roadmap for implementation.”