Federal Government extends cashless debit card trials

Amanda Lyons

14/02/2018 2:45:56 PM

The Federal Government has passed legislation to extend its cashless debit card trials, adding a new test location despite strong criticism from political opponents.

Federal Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan remains committed to cashless debit card trials and believes further expansion is warranted. Image: AAP/Lukas Coch
Federal Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan remains committed to cashless debit card trials and believes further expansion is warranted. Image: AAP/Lukas Coch

The House of Representatives passed the amended Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 [Provisions] on Tuesday 13 February after many hours of debate.
The amendment enables the extension of the cashless debit card trials taking place in Ceduna (SA) and East Kimberley (WA) since April 2016 for a further year. In addition, a third trial will be launched in WA’s Kalgoorlie-Boulder region, although the establishment of two further trial sites – Hervey Bay and Bundaberg in Queensland – has been blocked by the Federal Opposition.
People with a cashless debit card receive 20% of their welfare payment into their bank account and 80% onto the card, the latter of which can be used at any location with EFTPOS except to withdraw cash, buy alcohol or engage in gambling.
The existing trials have been targeted at areas identified as having high levels of welfare dependency and social harm and, despite criticisms, have been heralded as a success by Federal Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan.
‘The cashless debit card was introduced to break the cycle of welfare dependency by helping people manage their income,’ he said. ‘After 12 months of operation, people living in Ceduna and East Kimberley reported that drinking, drug-taking and gambling had decreased. The cashless debit card is making a difference.’
An independent evaluation report of the trials enumerated positive results, such as 45% of participants being better able to save money and 48% of habitual gamblers gambling less, as well as anecdotal evidence from community leaders and stakeholders of a reduction in crime and violence within the community.
But this report, undertaken by independent company ORIMA Research, has received significant criticisms from Australian academics for a lack of rigour and poor research practices. Based on these assessments, Labor, the Nick Xenophon Team and the Greens have expressed concerns about a lack of robust data for the cashless debit card.
‘Labor believes there is insufficient credible evidence at this point to support the establishment of further trials of the cashless debit card,’ Queensland Opposition spokeswoman for social services Jenny Macklin MP said when addressing the possibility of the Hervey Bay and Bundaberg trials.
‘Given the significant cost of the trials ... we must be sure that the cashless debit card can deliver its stated objectives.’
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) does not believe a mandatory cashless debit card scheme is a helpful solution for people struggling with low incomes and difficult social circumstances.
‘People trying to survive on income support want jobs, not their freedoms restricted nor further stigma attached to their plight,’ ACOSS chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie said.
‘As a mandatory scheme, the cashless debit card screams entrapment without sufficient reliable evidence to show the trials are meeting the desired health and social outcomes.’
Regardless of such criticisms, Minister Tehan remains committed to the planned extensions to cashless debit card trials in Ceduna and East Kimberley, and believes further expansion is warranted.
‘I will continue working with all parties to expand the rollout of the card, including Hervey Bay and Bundaberg,’ Minister Tehan said.

cashless-debit-card Dan-Tehan social-services

Login to comment