Cashless Welfare Card Should be Expanded, Senate Committee Says
17 August 2018 at 4:30 pm
The controversial cashless welfare card has had “a positive effect” on existing trial sites and should be expanded, a Senate committee believes, despite continued opposition from Labor and the Greens.
The Community Affairs Legislation Committee’s majority report recommended expanding the cashless welfare card to a further trial site, in Queensland’s Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region.
The committee said the cashless welfare card has “had a positive effect” on communities in existing trial sites, referencing results from an independent evaluation of the trial undertaken by ORIMA Research last year.
But Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who was deputy chair of the committee, slammed the majority report.
“This is the third Senate inquiry into the cashless welfare card and it’s still ineffective, controlling and punitive,” Siewert said.
“Every extension and amendment to this program is more insidious and should be seen for what it is, part of this government’s continued attacks on people who dare to access the social safety net.”
Siewert noted an auditor-general report which said the government’s approach to monitoring and evaluating the cashless welfare card trial was inadequate.
The auditor-general also said ORIMA Research did not use all relevant data available when measuring the trial’s impact.
“The recent auditor-general report into the implementation of the cashless welfare card trials found that the trials have been unable to show whether the card has reduced social harm. Yet, the majority committee report recommended that the bill be passed,” she said.
“Once again, evidence from experts and the community is wilfully ignored.”
The cashless welfare card – which locks 80 per cent of welfare payments onto a debit card and cannot be used to withdraw cash or be spent on alcohol or gambling – has been trialled in East Kimberley in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia since 2016.
In February this year, legislation passed expanding the scheme to WA’s Goldfields region.
The new proposed trial would run in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay until June 30, 2020, and increase the number of participants nationally from 10,000 to 15,000.
The Greens and Labor both produced separate dissenting reports opposing the trial’s expansion.
Labor’s dissenting report said ALP Senators on the committee “vehemently” disagreed with the committee’s view that the card was having a positive effect on existing trial sites.
The majority report acknowledged concerns about the evaluation process, but recognised the “significant steps being taken by the Department of Social Services to improve evaluations in the future”.