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.
Speaking to @David_Speers on @SkyNewsAust about the expansion of the cashless debit card trial to Hervey Bay and Bundaberg; the card helps people manage their income and stabilise their lives. #auspol pic.twitter.com/Vf073e9sru
— Paul Fletcher (@PaulFletcherMP) September 11, 2018
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”.
The cashless debit card stigmatises people on income support, and the Senate should reject its extension to Bundaberg & Hervey Bay. The Parliament should be implementing policy that supports people on low incomes, not policy that shames them. https://t.co/2Yrgn57vcI
— ACOSS (@ACOSS) September 11, 2018
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.