House debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


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

7:33 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | Hansard source

The opposition opposes the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022. We believe Labor has recklessly walked away from the communities of Ceduna in South Australia; East Kimberley and the Goldfields in Western Australia; and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland.

There are so many questions hanging in the ether about the consultation done by Labor prior to the election about this harm minimisation program. Questions like: Who did Labor consult? Who did the government consult? Where did they go? What communities did they meet with? When did you meet people ? We know that they didn't do much consultation at all; that's the reality. That's on the record. The Kalgoorlie-Boulder mayor, John Bowler, expressed his frustration when he said:

It almost seems they—


are putting the cart before the horse.

I would have liked for them to come here, consult with us, consult with the community, and then make a decision.

Communities like Kalgoorlie-Boulder have every right to feel abandoned by the Albanese government.

The cashless debit card was an important recommendation in the Forrest review report, Creating parity, as a means of reducing the social harm caused by welfare fuelled alcohol, gambling and drug abuse and to deal with deep-seated social and economic problems in many communities across Australia.

As of 1 July 2022, 17,795 participants were using the cashless debit card—nearly 18,000 participants. As reported in the media:

WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the card had been beneficial in remote communities.

"It gives opportunity for the more senior people in families and the Elders and some of the Aboriginal communities to use the money on food for the kids and other things," he said.

"It just seems to settle the community down and gives them better opportunity to spend their money on priority needs."

If the government put aside its ideological opposition to the cashless debit card it would again hear firsthand how the cashless debit card is making a real positive difference in the community. After all, that's what we, as elected federal members of parliament, are here to do.

The Wunan Foundation, a leading community organisation in the East Kimberley region, in its submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee stated:

… more than four years on from the beginning of the CDC trial, circumstances in the East Kimberley today represent an improvement on the lived experience of people before the trial began in April 2016.

Generation One reiterated its support for the cashless debit card in its submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, stating:

Our support is grounded by our ongoing community consultations with trial sites since the establishment of the CDC. We continue to see the incredible positive impacts the CDC is making for individuals, families, and communities, and wish to see this continue.

Evaluations of the cashless debit card show that the program is working. The first independent evaluation, released in late 2017, showed that the card has shown 'considerable positive impact' in the initial trial sites. Is the government going to keep the BasicsCard in place? Are the government aware that the technology that sits behind the BasicsCard is outdated? The cashless debit card is a visa debit card issued by payments by the company Indue, with cardholders using the card at most shops that accept visa or EFTPOS for maximum convenience. The technology behind the cashless debit card is the most advanced in the marketplace and the card looks exactly the same as yours and my debit card. Actually, it looks better than my debit card because I just have a plain red one, a Westpac one. The cashless debit card is dark grey or even black. It looks like an upmarket card. It doesn't have 'cashless debit card' on it; it's completely inconspicuous. No-one standing next to you would know it was a certain card. It looks exactly the same as any high-end card. You just can't buy alcohol or drugs with it and you can't gamble with it. Under the coalition government, you still received 20 per cent in cash. We're hearing stories about people not being able to send $20 to their grandchild. It's ridiculous. Even if you are on a basic $300 a week, you still are going to have $60 in cash every week. If you are on $400 a week, you are going to have $80 in cash. The reality is that the only thing this can't be spent on is alcohol, drugs and gambling.

Why is it that Labor is so determined to keep these people in the situation they're in? That's the question that I have. We know the questions that I've already put forward. They haven't done any consultation at all. We know that when the Minister for Indigenous Australians was the shadow minister and went into the seat of Grey she met only with the people who agreed with her. She didn't want to meet with anyone who did not agree with her.

Why would the government want to unwind this when it's actually helping people? Numerous reports have come forward. We've heard from members in whose electorates this card has been rolled out about the positive impact it is having. I don't tend to tell the member for Cowan what's best for her electorate, because, frankly, I don't know. I'm not from Western Australia. I know what's best for the people of Petrie. It amazes me that some people in this place want to tell the member for Hinkler, the member for Grey and others what's best for their electorate. That's the reality.

In my opinion, the Albanese government is making a mistake in doing this. I think there will be consequences. A number of members on our side have outlined what they will be. I seek leave to table a document from the Bundaberg council, if that is alright with the government.

Leave not granted.

Come on! It is just a document from the mayor basically saying the mayor supports the card and the mayor is aware of widespread community support for the card. That's all I wanted to table. I don't know what's—


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