Labor moves to scrap cashless welfare card, introduce 10 days domestic violence leave
28 July 2022 at 1:00 am
The for purpose sector will be watching the passages of both pieces of legislation and their respective debates closely.
The Albanese government has introduced legislation to abolish the cashless welfare card as it seeks to move on promises made before the election.
It has also flagged its intention to introduce legislation for 10 days of annual leave for those trying to escape domestic violence.
Both pieces of legislation were 2022 election promises made by Labor.
The cashless welfare card income management scheme is currently being used by more than 17,000 people across Australia.
In a statement, social services minister Amanda Rishworth said participants would transition off the scheme, with the option to volunteer for continuing income management.
According to the statement, the government will engage with those on the card to make them aware of the transition.
She said the legislation would “also ensure the Family Responsibilities Commission can continue to support community members in the Cape York region by re-establishing income management”.
It’s understood this refers to the continuation of the Basics Card, a predecessor of the cashless welfare card.
Rishworth said the legislation had come about through listening to First Nations community leaders, participants in the scheme and service providers.
“The cashless debit card stigmatises and it often makes participants’ lives more difficult because they cannot access the cash economy,” Rishworth said.
She added the government would consult those affected to “explore the future of income management and other supports that they may need”.
The sector will no doubt be watching the progress of the legislation closely.
The Antipoverty Centre condemned the government’s decision to continue compulsory income management, labelling the system “abusive”.
Spokesperson Jay Coonan said the introduction of the legislation was “not a cause for celebration”.
“The ALP are keeping harmful income control after telling voters they would abolish compulsory income management. They have the choice to dismantle it entirely, and instead they are choosing to continue this racist Intervention-era policy.
“It is galling for them to have misled the public about their intention to “abolish” cashless welfare, because they haven’t. Keeping the BasicsCard is cruel, unnecessary and ineffective. It is worse when the prime minister uses his mother’s experience of social security for political gain, only to punish people like this,” Coonan said.
Pending the passage of the bill, participants will be able to opt out of the cashless debit card scheme from around mid-September by contacting Services Australia.
Earlier this month, the Parliamentary Budget Office revealed that scrapping the card would save the government $286.5m over four years.
Domestic violence leave
Domestic violence charities and advocates welcomed the Labor undertaking, saying it would be a “gamechanger”.
“We congratulate the federal government for making women’s safety a priority by introducing this landmark legislation in the first week of Parliament sitting,” said Full Stop Australia CEO Hayley Foster.
“This is a recognition of the incredible cost domestic and family violence has on individuals, workplaces and the economy – over $26 billion each year mostly borne by victim-survivors and their employers.
“Escaping from a domestic violence situation is a huge ordeal; it often involves health, housing and legal appointments, as well as court appearances, all of which are only available during business hours.
“A survivor of domestic abuse shouldn’t have to choose between escaping violence and losing their job.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Michele O’Neil also welcomed the move, pointing out the union negotiated across several awards to include 10 days of domestic and family violence leave.
“It costs $18,000 on average to escape a violent relationship in Australia and economic security is a primary factor determining whether a person subjected to family or domestic violence can escape from a dangerous situation,” she said.
“Winning 10 days paid FDV leave will allow many more women to escape violence and keep their jobs.”