Federal Government renews push for extension of cashless debit card trial

Paul Hayes

30/05/2018 1:59:09 PM

The Federal Minister for Social Services has introduced legislation to expand the Government’s cashless debit card trial to Queensland, months after the first attempt was blocked in the Senate.

Federal Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan has urged parliament to pass the legislation and ‘help the people of Hinkler to help themselves’. (Image Mick Tsikas/AAP)
Federal Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan has urged parliament to pass the legislation and ‘help the people of Hinkler to help themselves’. (Image Mick Tsikas/AAP)

Federal Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan this morning introduced draft laws to extend the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 to include Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland.
‘The Government is committed to reducing the social harm caused by alcohol, drug abuse and gambling in areas with high levels of welfare dependency,’ Minister Dehan said in his second reading speech.
‘The cashless debit card operates like an ordinary debit card but aims to reduce the effects of alcohol, drug and gambling abuse by both limiting the availability of cash and limiting the items that can be purchased.’
The Government’s first attempt to expand the scheme to Queensland was blocked by the Senate in February.
Under the scheme, people with a cashless debit card receive 20% of their welfare payment into their bank account and 80% onto the card. Money on the debit card can be used at any location with EFTPOS except to withdraw cash, buy alcohol or engage in gambling.
According to Minister Tehan, cashless debit cards have been a success in the three existing trial sites of Ceduna (SA), East Kimberley (WA) and The Goldfields (WA).
‘The independent evaluation into the effectiveness of the card has shown “considerable
positive impact” in communities, including 48% of drug-takers using fewer drugs, 41% of drinkers drinking less [and] 48% of gamblers gambling less,’ he said.
The evaluation to which Minister Tehan refers has previously received criticisms from Australian academics.
Keith Pitt, the Member for Hinkler – the Federal electorate that approximately houses Hervey Bay to Bundaberg – believes the trial would make positive change to the local community.
‘The cashless debit card will tackle a problem that everyone in our community knows exists,’ he said. ‘This will be a targeted trial rolled out to people in our electorate that need help. It will not be rolled out to age pensioners.’
However, the mayor of Bundaberg Jack Dempsey recently said he is against trialling the cashless debit card the area, believing the proposed annual cost of $10,000 per recipient to be prohibitive.
‘Surely there’s ways to incentivise people,’ Mr Dempsey said. ‘When you look at $10,000 ... per individual, it suddenly stacks up that you could nearly pay for them to have a job in the first place.’
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has said it does not believe a cashless debit card scheme is a helpful solution for people who may be 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 earlier this year.
‘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.’
The expansion of the scheme to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay would affect 6700 people, making it the largest of the trial sites.

Bundaberg-and-Hervey-Bay cashless-debit-card welfare-trial

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