House debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


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

7:27 pm

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I am very mindful of the time constraints this evening, but I want to add my voice to the members of the coalition who have already spoken this evening, and those who will follow me in speaking this evening to oppose the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022.

I also have to say that I find it quite astonishing that Labor could only find one willing speaker for this bill's debate. They could only find one person who was prepared to argue in defence of this really bad legislation that Labor has introduced into the House. Perhaps that's because deep down they know that, while they have to support this for ideological reasons, it will cause great harm for the most vulnerable members of Australia's community. The bottom line is that not enough consultation has taken place with the communities currently using the cashless debit cards. Not enough consideration has been given to the potentially devastating impact from a rise in violence, antisocial behaviour and crime in these communities.

I would particularly like to add my comments to those that have just been made by the member for Berowra, who went through, in quite a lot of detail, the positive impact that this card has had in a number of communities, particularly Ceduna, and the impacts that are likely when that card is removed. Effectively, what will happen is that Labor's bill will allow for more alcohol and drug abuse in at-risk communities, and that means an increase in violence and in antisocial behaviour. My deep concern is for Australians in those communities who may need to flee domestic and family violence. Very often they have children with them, and I fear that they will be inadvertently caught in a cycle of abuse through the Labor government's haphazard repeal of the cashless debit card.

I wish to draw attention to the cohort of people who are on income management, which the Labor government has said they are not removing—in particular, those who are currently using the cashless debit card to manage their finances across the Northern Territory, in Ceduna, the East Kimberley, the Goldfields, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and Cape York.

We know that the cashless debit card provided more flexibility because it effectively works like a visa debit card, allowing users to make purchases in more shops across Australia that accept visa or EFTPOS, as well as online, with the exception of alcohol and gambling products. The previous BasicsCard allowed users to spend their welfare payments only in select stores, which is limited to around 15,000 shops and businesses across the nation. The cashless debit card provided upgraded technology to expand shopping options for those using the card. It's important that Labor considers the potential impact that removing the cashless debit card as a knee-jerk reaction will have on a lot of people. Women and children making the decision to flee instances of domestic violence could be impacted by being forced to spend time in a limited geographic area where there are approved stores that accept BasicsCard payments. This is the last thing that they should have to worry about in a situation where they are fleeing violence and abuse. This could have tragic consequences.

We know that Labor can't be trusted to provide honest accounts of the cashless debit card. During the election campaign, those opposite engaged in a shameful scare campaign aimed at age pensioners. Labor falsely claimed a re-elected coalition government would introduce a cashless pension card, which was never true, not at all. They engaged in baseless scaremongering for their own political gain. What they should have been doing is getting out into these at-risk communities and consulting directly about how to best manage issues in their communities. They should have been listening to those who use the cashless debit card about the difference it has made for them. They should have been talking about how to reduce the social harm caused by welfare fuelled alcohol, gambling and drug abuse.

It's important to note that some of the findings in relation to the cashless debit card have provided information about the improved impact on family stability. The second independent impact evaluation, by the University of Adelaide, reported that 45 percent of cashless debit card participants reported the cashless debit card had improved things for themselves and their family. This is clearly unnecessary legislation. It's being rushed into this place not to fix a problem but to create one. The Labor government still don't get that decisions have consequences. They will be responsible for every additional violent crime and neglected child that will inevitably occur as a result of the removal of this important income management tool. I oppose the bill.


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