House debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022


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

8:01 pm

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

As I stand on my feet, I offer you affirmation on your elevation to high office as the Second Deputy Speaker, a well-deserved position for a member from Western Australia deservedly received by you. As we come to the hour of eight o'clock, the parliament in its neutrality would normally be rising at this time of the night but we are not. There is a bill before the House which is of particular attention to this side of the House. As a result, I want to acknowledge the government for allowing debate to pursue until 10 o'clock tonight. As you well know, there's a list of speakers who want to make a contribution to this debate because we believe that it's worth debating. We believe that this bill will have ramifications in communities and we need to make sure this government are accountable for the actions that they are about to undertake as a result of their actions.

The opposition opposes the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022 and will oppose it vigorously. Evidence of that is the number of speakers who are prepared to stay after the parliament has finished to put their case. We will put our case because we were the architects of this bill and there are reasons we put it in place. It's worth remembering that the introduction of this card didn't come from any political grandstanding in regional communities. It didn't come from woke communities trying to put forward a better way of life. It didn't come from state governments. The genesis of this card, the genesis of trying to make Indigenous communities and regional communities better came from where? These aren't in the speaking points that would have been handed out to both sides of the House tonight. It came from a coroner's report. It comes from the death after death after death of those who lost their lives in communities through drugs, alcohol, illicit substances or whatever it might be, those who lost their lives due to family abuse, domestic violence.

It's worth remembering the introduction of this card came about as a part of the response to the South Australian coroner's report delivered by Anthony Schappell in 2011 and, as a result, this government acted. It came about because there were six Indigenous people, as it turned out, who had died prior to that. As I look around at the chamber I see members from South Australia. I see the member for Barker in the chamber, who would be only too well aware of coroner's reports, coming from his legal background.

The decision for us to introduce the cashless debit card was not made on a political whim. It was made as a result of the coroner's report by Anthony Chappelle in 2011. In the five years leading up to 2011, there'd been six deaths in Ceduna. While he was deliberating, there was another. How would history have treated us as a government if we didn't act? So we acted.

During the course of this debate, you have heard overwhelming contributions from members on this side of the House citing personal experience where they have sat with families. In contrast, on the other side, you have heard similar debating points. One of the debating points that I can bring to memory was that we needed to get rid of the cashless debit card because there was a person in a regional community who couldn't buy the right brassiere size on the cashless debit card. Please tell me that that's not why the Australian Labor Party is doing this. I don't want to embarrass the member by reciting it, but, if you want to travel back through Hansard, you will find the member, who resides in the southern part of our country, on an island.

Anyway, the reason I stand today is not that I have an Indigenous community in my area. Whilst mine is a regional seat, I don't have members of my community who access the cashless debit card. But I stand tonight to support my fellow members in this chamber who, as a government, collectively worked towards bringing a cashless debit card to change lives and save lives on the back of a coroner's report that, for all intents and purposes, I have not heard a single word about from the other side. None of them have refuted the coroner's report in explaining why this has come about.

There will be unintended consequences from the removal of this cashless debit card, and those consequences will be owned by those who sit on the other side of the chamber. During the election campaign, we heard ad nauseam that those on the other side had a plan. Tell me: what's the plan for when we replace the cashless debit card? What is the financial management tool that the Australian Labor Party is going to replace this with? There is no plan. There never was a plan. What's unfolding in front of us—unfolding for the Australian public—is that the Australian Labor Party's plan only seems to be to join the conga line of ministers who walk out and say; 'Everything that happened before the election is your fault; everything good that happens in front of us is a result of our good management.' I could go over the speaking points, but I don't think the Australian public would appreciate the repetitive nature of that. They have heard my point. The coroner made the recommendations.

During the debate, there were a number of points made on the other side about the University of Adelaide's report. In closing, I want to cite the Auditor-General's report, which made two recommendations on the cashless debit card. Recommendation 1, in paragraph 3.20, says:

Department of Social Services develops internal performance measures and targets to better monitor CDC program implementation and impact.

In short, what that means is there is no recommendation before the House from any university or from the Auditor-General's office which indicates that this should be abolished, other than simply that there should be greater measures to better monitor its performance. Guess what. When people are safe at home because, as a result of the cashless debit card, they're not being abused, they're not being subjected to alcohol abuse, no-one rings up an authority and says: 'I'm safe. Don't worry about me tonight. All things are good here on the home front. I can sleep knowing that I'm going to wake up without being abused.' Those incidents are not reported. The Auditor's report says that, as a No. 1 priority, there needs to be greater monitoring of the CDC program's implementation and its impact. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to offer a few short comments in this debate.


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