8 December 2020
In considering the merits of the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill, I reviewed material presented to the Senate Inquiry, discussed the issue with my crossbench colleagues and met with the Minister and her staff. I have heard from many voices within Warringah and from groups working with the affected communities.
This Bill seeks to make the Cashless Debit Card a permanent feature in the existing trial sites of the Northern Territory, Cape York, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Ceduna. It also allows for the voluntary take-up of the card by members of those communities who are on other benefit types, such as the pension. In some of the trial sites, these people were previously prohibited from joining the scheme. I note the data that the Minister has provided which shows that 850 pensioners have voluntarily chosen to take up the card in the Northern Territory.
I also note that the technology has improved since the initial rollout of the Basics Card in the Northern Territory, the Indue card is more user friendly and appears more like a standard debit card than the initial rollout. This legislation would extend the Indue card to the Northern Territory.
I am not opposed to this type of program as I support efforts to reduce domestic violence, alcoholism and gambling in communities. Whilst there is anecdotal evidence that this card has achieved some reductions in these areas of concern, which is promising, the data is not there to underpin the broad powers provided by this legislation.
My key concern with this legislation is the lack of evidence for or against it and its discriminatory nature against Indigenous Australians. I acknowledge the challenges in collecting data on a program such as this, but note the Government has commissioned an extensive report by the University of Adelaide, which has not been made available.
In addition, there are a number of programs which the Government promised to roll-out in parallel with the cashless debit card to address gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, which have not been realised. In Ceduna for example, the government has not established the rehabilitation centres that the government committed to provide at the outset of the trial.
I would support a voluntary approach to the cashless debit card. But I will not support this legislation without appropriate evidence.