Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022; Second Reading
I congratulate the member for New England on what was a powerful speech to this place. Like the member for New England, I wish the new government every success because, like the member for New England, I know that the fate of our nation over the course of the next three years or so rests with those opposite. But I've got to say that this is an incredibly sad and disappointing way to commence the business of the 47th Parliament of Australia. The first and most important responsibility of government is to keep citizens safe. The repeal of the cashless debit card, proposed tonight as an emergency matter, which I will deal with in a moment, will make Australians less safe. But, worse than that, it will make those amongst the most vulnerable in our nation less safe. So, if you were looking to make things worse, congratulations. I struggle to see why you would want to make a bad situation worse.
I think there's some symbolism tonight in the fact that this, the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022, has been brought on as a new emergency matter, as per the minister's declaration, because the reality is that many of those opposite are probably at home tucked up in bed right now, safe as houses, while we debate this motion. I'll tell you who's not safe in many communities tonight. That's why I support, in the fullness of time, if we had the opportunity, the extension of this program more broadly. Many people in Australia, women and children in vulnerable communities, are not safe tonight, and yet we in this place are debating whether or not we should take away this program which works. You heard it from the member for New England, in the member for New England's report, as he framed it. You were hearing there the real-life experience of someone who's been in these communities.
You have to ask yourself, as I have: Why are we here tonight? Why are we debating this repeal? I'll tell you why. If during an election campaign and in the lead-up to it you demonise a program like this one and you make false claims about it, including that it is going to be extended to pensioners, which was complete bunk and just another scare campaign of the type like 'Mediscare' that sadly the people of Australia are getting used to from those opposite, you've got to come into this place and repeal it. That's exactly what you have to do, because otherwise you've demonised it during the campaign and then done nothing about it. So that's why we're here. It's politics before people.
What does the cashless debit card do? Plenty of others have spoken about this. But for those who might be taking an interest late tonight, perhaps listening to the radio or other broadcasts, the cashless debit card effectively hypothecates 20 per cent of someone's welfare entitlement to their own bank account and the balance, 80 per cent, to a cashless debit card. I'm grateful to the member for O'Connor, who has shown me a card today. Effectively, to all intents and purposes, it looks exactly like the debit card that I, in fact, have got in my own pocket. That debit card can be used to purchase anything and everything, with the exception of two classes of products—namely, alcohol and gambling products. And, of course, it can't be used to access cash.
Why would that be important? Well, before coming to this place I worked in criminal law and I had a lot of opportunity to deal with people who were involved in the illicit drug trade. I would look at a lot of evidence collected in drug houses, and I would often see paraphernalia and drugs. I'd never see an EFTPOS tap-and-go card because—you know what?—drug dealers deal in cash. That's what they deal in, and if you give people who have a penchant for illicit substances access to cash then the money goes off the grocery bill and towards those drugs.
Those opposite might chime in, but I've acted for these criminals. I've sat next to them. I know exactly how they work. It's one of the reasons I was motivated to come to this place. I get it.
No, I said I acted for these criminals. The reality here is that what we're doing right now in this place is making Australians less safe. Let's be clear to those opposite: women will die as a result of the action you take tonight; children will die because of the action you take tonight; women and children will be sexually abused. The risks of this go off the charts; that's the reality.
It's sad that those opposite were so full-throated in their support of this repeal that, even before this matter was declared urgent, there were two speakers from those opposite. If you believe this, stand up and argue it. Own the outcomes. I can tell you that I've had a private conversation with the minister, whom I regard highly. You may find that unusual, but I do. She's a South Australian. She's a good person. Today, on leaving the parliament after question time, I took the opportunity to say, 'Amanda, Member for Kingston,'—the relevant minister—'don't do this. It's wrong, and you will own the outcomes.'
Now, as a South Australian, I'm sad to say that it was the death of five young people in the community of Ceduna and the death of a sixth before the coroner, Tony Schapel, could deliver his recommendations that effectively brought the CDC into reality. Today, in South Australia, a special investigation has been authorised to investigate an alleged death as a result of neglect. That didn't happen in the Ceduna community, but I'm here to tell you that we still see instances where young people and children are being put at risk.
The minister today said, effectively, that one of the reasons for this repeal is that 60 per cent of people surveyed didn't think this was making a positive impact on their lives. Well, by my calculations, that means that 40 per cent of people indicated that it did. Now, I haven't been here as long as some but I reckon that if every piece of social policy that came out of this place positively impacted 40 per cent of people we would reckon that's a pretty good outcome.
The consequences of the action tonight will not be borne by those opposite, by me or by those close to me. They will be bruises on the faces and the arms of people who would have otherwise avoided being impacted by the rivers of grog that will flow back into these communities. And the saddest part of all of this is that nobody has taken the time to sit down with the member for O'Connor, the member for Grey, the member for Durack and the member for Hinkler, who are the strongest proponents of this program that you will find anywhere, not least in this place.