House debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022; Second Reading

4:40 pm

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I will continue my remarks from earlier and reiterate that we will be opposing this very destructive bill that, as I said in my earlier remarks, are unlike few bills we see in this place, where we know what the consequences will be. We know that abolishing the cashless debit card is going to unleash a tsunami of alcohol and drugs into vulnerable communities. We know that the people who will suffer the most from that tsunami of additional alcohol and drugs will be defenceless children who will be neglected and—predominantly—women who will suffer domestic violence.

It was very telling in question time when I asked the Prime Minister if he would guarantee that repealing the cashless debit card would not lead to more women and children suffering from violence. He wouldn't answer it and nor would his minister, who he referred the question to. The question was beneath him as Prime Minister to answer.

As I said earlier in my remarks, I'm not a person in this House who has imputed motives against people who I think predominantly come to this chamber to do the right thing. But members opposite must know in the fibre of their beings that unleashing alcohol and drugs into these communities will be destructive, so I appeal to all members of the government—I suspect they're too far down this path now—to reflect on their own conscience.

If the members of the government that want to repeal the cashless debit card don't believe me, let me refer to some more comments from those who are in these communities or who are indeed people on the cashless debit card themselves. Here is from a CDC participant in Kalgoorlie: 'I'm on the CDC and it works fine. I have more money for food and I get my Woolworths groceries online.' Another participant and services worker said, 'Kids are no longer hungry. They are at school with lunches and school uniforms.' A community elder in East Kimberley said, 'My son had a long-term problem with grog for five years. After the CDC came in, it helped him get sober and now he's working with a well-known Indigenous TV personality as a cultural adviser. It's changed his life. His wife is also working now.' From a women's refuge worker in the East Kimberley: 'Since the CDC, the seriousness of assaults seen by the refuge has declined.' From a CDC participant in East Kimberley: 'Grog not going to get your mob nowhere. Mothers and kids should stay on the cards, as kids are no longer looking for food like they used to'. Now what ideology drives members opposite to say to that woman, who has said, 'the kids are no longer looking for food like they used to', that it is okay if that child has to search for food again and is neglected again? What ideology drives members opposite to say to the worker in a women's refuge: 'It's okay. You will return back to see even more women suffering violence'? There's no way to really politely have this discussion and to brush over what's happening. Predominantly women will suffer violence because of this. Children will suffer violence. Children will suffer from neglect or, as one CDC participant said, 'will go hungry'. I know these communities in Ceduna, East Kimberley and other places around the country are a long way from Canberra, but I would say to the members of the government: this is now on you; this is on you.

Now, I know why the Prime Minister refused to give an assurance that more women and children wouldn't suffer from violence when the CDC is removed, because he must know. His minister must know. How heartless and cruel and how driven by ideology must you otherwise-decent people be to do that? I'm appealing to the Labor Party. I'm appealing to their conscience. This bill will lead to devastating consequences in these communities. It gives me no joy to be here speaking about this. It gives me no joy being here criticising the government. People, I'm sure, in the gallery and watching on TV think that the opposition gets off on just bashing the government. I wish that I did not have to criticise the government about this. I wish that there was unity in this parliament today that said 'More drugs, more alcohol in these communities is a bad thing,' and what those opposite are saying is that they don't care.

The minister in question time has now, on successive occasions, used the ANAO report as some sort of shield for her decision. She's selectively quoted from it. Let me take the House to what I think is the most striking part of this report. It's on page 48 of the Auditor-General's report into the implementation and performance of the cashless debit card trial, table 3.4, 'Assessment of 2020-21 performance measures for the Cashless Debit Card'. The minister has quoted from this report a couple of times in question time now, so she should have the courage to come in and rebut what this table says. The performance measure in table 3.4 is the 'extent to which the CDC supports a reduction in social harm in our communities.' The conclusion from the ANAO is that it 'fully and/or mostly meets' these requirements. The data's reliable. There's been a measurable, verifiable method, and it's free from bias. The consequences are that it supports a reduction of social harm in communities.

What I've tried to do in my remarks today is get away from the ANAO report or the University of Adelaide report, which shows a succession of improvements in communities where the CDC trials have been—reduced alcohol, reduced drugs, higher classroom attendance from children, lower neglect of children. I might say the voiceless in this debate are the children. The children don't get interviewed. No-one interviews the children and asks them: 'Are you suffering less neglect? Do you have breakfast, lunch and dinner? Do you have to lock yourself in a shipping container overnight?' Children are locking themselves in shipping containers, barricading themselves in shipping containers overnight, to save themselves from being sexually abused.


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