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Cashless Welfare Card Expands to Queensland

12 September 2018 at 5:30 pm
Luke Michael
The controversial cashless welfare card trial is expanding to Queensland after government legislation passed the Senate by a single vote.

Luke Michael | 12 September 2018 at 5:30 pm


Cashless Welfare Card Expands to Queensland
12 September 2018 at 5:30 pm

The controversial cashless welfare card trial is expanding to Queensland after government legislation passed the Senate by a single vote.

Despite continued opposition from Labor and the Greens, the bill extending the trial to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay won Tuesday’s Senate vote 33 to 32.

Independent Tim Storer withdrew his opposition to the bill after the government agreed to amend the legislation, meaning the trail will be subject an independent inquiry.

This comes after a recent auditor-general report said the government’s approach to monitoring and evaluating the trial was inadequate.          

The amendment was supported by the opposition, but Labor Senator Jenny McAllister said she remained sceptical.

“[I] wish to place on record my scepticism that it will improve things a great deal. Already $1.6 million of public money has been spent on a failed evaluation,” McAllister said.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, a long-time critic of the trials, said she was “sad and worried” for the Queensland communities set to be subjected to “this ideological and punitive card”.

“I am really disappointed that unlike his former Centre Alliance colleagues, crossbencher Senator Tim Storer did not listen to the expert evidence or to the community and instead voted to pass this punitive and demeaning legislation,” Siewert said.

“The evidence from academics, experts and the auditor-general is clear, the evidence isn’t there to justify continuing with the card, yet the government and some of the crossbench have gone ahead.”

The community sector reacted negatively to news of the trial’s expansion on social media. The Australian Council of Social Service said it was “deeply disappointing”, while National Shelter asked why the government persisted with the trial “for which no positive evidence exists”.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher welcomed the Senate’s decision, which means up to 15,000 will soon be on the card.

“The card helps people manage their income and stabilise their lives by putting 80 per cent of a person’s welfare payment onto a debit card which can be used to purchase essentials such as food, rent, school supplies and pay bills,” Fletcher said.

“This portion of a person’s welfare payment cannot be used to buy alcohol, gamble or withdraw cash.

“Doing nothing is not an option, and combined with an investment of $1 million for support services, the government is helping people in the region to address serious and ongoing issues.”

This latest trial will affect around 6,000 people under 36 on Newstart, Youth Allowance or the Parenting Payment.

The card has been trialled in East Kimberley in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia since 2016, and has been in place in Western Australia’s Goldfields region since March this year.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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  • Martin Jackson says:

    This scheme is a disgrace! It is punitive, bereft of compassion and is part of a right wing agenda to dehumanise vulnerable people. Shame on these senators. Shame on Australia!

    • Wendy Parker says:

      So agree with you Martin it is so discriminatory and sinister and gives us apartheid by $$$$$ and division of social security and those not on social security payments. Discrimination will be commonplace if this continues.

      • Bill Prescott says:

        Any system that goes toward supporting that publicly funded welfare funds are used solely for the necessary and beneficial purposes intended cannot be all bad.
        How would the proposed card system denying alcohol, gambling, drug, porno publication, etc. purchases to these supported individuals going to hurt them?
        Take a lesson from the current condition of the American Indians.

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