Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022; Second Reading
I acknowledge and thank the member for Grey, who has just preceded me. I know his electorate very well. In fact, I grew up in the member for Grey's electorate and understand many of the communities that he just spoke about. He just mentioned the emotion of sadness. We come into this place, as members of this chamber, as very lucky people to be able to do this. On many bills, you're not happy with the result or you don't agree with what's happened, especially when you're in opposition, but I must say this is the first bill that I've been involved with where, actually, the emotion that I have most, of any emotion, about this bill passing is sadness. I feel very sad for the communities and the families that will be affected by what is going to happen because of the passing of this bill.
So what is it? What is this bill about? It's been well explained, but this is a cashless debit card for people in four communities, three of them quite remote communities. They were the trial sites. These communities were chosen for very good reasons: there were very big and major social dysfunctions in the first two or three communities that were chosen; and they were remote. Why were these communities chosen? They were chosen firstly because of the violence—the sexual violence, the domestic violence, the abuse, and the danger for children and mothers and in some cases fathers as well. They were chosen because they were very dysfunctional communities that had a lot of social issues. The cashless debit card was chosen for the reason that this would be a good way, because of the remoteness and the isolation of these communities, you could trial this to see: what would happen if we did this?
In politics, we see fear campaigns all the time, and both sides of politics have done that, but I was really quite disappointed in the fear campaign on this from the government, saying that we were going to do it everywhere for pensioners, which was never the motivation to do this. The motivation to do this cashless debit card was to stop children, basically, being bashed, beaten or raped; mothers being bashed, beaten or raped; and fathers in some cases, too, being bashed and beaten. It was the trauma that these communities were going through.
These communities, as I say, were chosen because they were remote. The cashless debit card was introduced. What did that mean? It didn't mean an income cut for any of these people. It didn't mean that they were being neglected for anything that was essential. Let's just step back a bit. What are we saying here? We're saying there's a community with a lot of social dysfunction, a community that's dangerous for children. I've been to some of these communities and grew up near one. It can be dangerous for children to stay at home. As previous speakers have said, in some of these towns you have hundreds of kids roaming the streets at night because it's not safe to be at home. This is not okay.
We talk about the fact that we need to make our statistics better and make families and communities safer for everybody. The idea is not that outrageous, and I simply don't understand how this is being sold as a terrible thing to have done to people. This was simply: if we just make it so that people in some isolated communities that have major social dysfunction are not able to spend welfare money—this is money that's given to them by the government—on alcohol, drugs or gambling, let's see what that does. And this has been vilified as a terrible thing that we have done. I say, if we've saved one child from being raped, if we've saved one wife from being bashed, or if we've just done that on a couple of occasions, then this has been a worthwhile trial. But I would say that this hasn't just saved isolated children or isolated women; this has saved communities.
I was speaking to a teacher in one of these communities. She was telling me what used to happen when she first arrived, before the cashless welfare card was introduced. There was a certain day—it was welfare day, but she didn't know it was welfare day—when the kids would run out of school really early. She said to one of the other teachers, 'Why do the kids do that?' She said, 'They run home and they try and get some of the money before it all goes, because it will be all gone within a day or two.' So they'd literally run home because they knew there was going to be cash in the house that day, and they would try and get some of it. And they would try and get some of it so they could buy food or support themselves through that day. I ran into her a few years later, and we were speaking about the cashless debit card. She was then not living in that community, and she said, 'That can never be reversed, as far as I'm concerned. As a teacher, what I saw as a result of the cashless debit card in my community was the best thing that I ever saw happen.'
When I'm in a debate or an argument, I always try and understand what the other side thinks. Why does the person who does not agree with me not agree with my thought process? You always have to put yourself in someone else's position to try and understand them. Okay, there are civil liberties. I get that. Examples have been brought up of people not having enough money to buy a second-hand fridge. Seriously? There are ways around that. There were things that were agreed to to try and get around things like that. People say that, if you go to a local market, you won't have enough cash to buy whatever. These communities, these mums and dads, weren't going to Sunday markets to buy stuff. In these communities, mum or dad, and sometimes both, were getting drunk, spending far too much of the money on alcohol, drugs and/or gambling, and their children were in danger. The stats support that.
I also don't get why the rush with this. Why the rush? The government now have said that they want, as a priority, to bring in this whole new wave of transparency, integrity and everything else they're going to do to make us a better community and a better society. Why is this such a rush? Why is this in the first two weeks of sitting? Why is it so important that you give these people back cash that means that their children are going to be in more danger? Why are you doing this in the first two weeks of sitting? Why are we having an urgency motion to say that this has to go through quickly? I think it is going to be a great shame to this government that the first urgency bill that they are putting through this parliament—'Urgent; we have to rush it'—is to give more money to alcoholics and drug addicts so their children will be in danger.
An opposition member: And drug dealers.
And drug dealers. So that's the first urgency motion—the first claim to fame—of this government. The first thing they have to gag and ram through this parliament, this bill, will let families and communities who have had great trauma and whose children have been in great danger, have that reinforced and put those children and those women back in danger. I think this is going to go down as a great shame of this government, that this is the first thing they thought they had to rush through.
Again, I try to understand the other side of this; I understand the civil liberties side and I understand the fact that you might say that you're taking away people's flexibility to have enough money to go ahead and get a haircut or whatever. I think that all sounds well in theory—I think that might all sound well in a different universe. But I know Ceduna well and I know some of the other communities, and I've certainly met many people from these communities. As I said at the start, I'm quite saddened by what's happening in this parliament today. I'm quite saddened that this government feels that this is something they need to do quickly and rush through. It's the first bill that they'll basically gag.
I literally pray for these communities, because when this cashless debit card is lifted and some of these families and people who are alcoholics and drug addicts and what have you start to get cash back into their hands this is going to be a very sad and traumatic day for the communities that are affected.