House debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Matters of Public Importance

Pensions and Benefits

3:35 pm

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

We have heard a lot of rhetoric from this minister. There is so much rhetoric from this minister, but no evidence whatsoever—sorry, shadow minister; I shouldn't have promoted him. We've heard so much rhetoric about crime, so much rhetoric, but with no evidence whatsoever.

One of the things that the shadow minister talks about a lot is crime and the crime statistics—he hasn't been able to provide any of them. But I'll give them to you. In fact, domestic violence offences as a subset of assault offences increased by 57 per cent between 2014 and 2019 in Ceduna and surrounds. In Alice Springs, between 2012 and 2020, we've seen assaults involving DV increase as well. What we've seen, for participants in areas where the CDC has been, is no change whatsoever or, in fact, things getting worse when it comes to crime.

This shadow minister has constantly ignored the evidence—and we've listened to him a lot. He talked about Noel Pearson. I met with Noel Pearson and I had a very productive conversation with Noel Pearson. But the shadow minister misrepresents Noel Pearson, because one of the things that the shadow minister suggests is that the blanket application of the CDC to anyone on an income support payment is supported by Noel Pearson. But, in fact, Noel Pearson has said he doesn't agree with the blanket imposition of the card. He doesn't actually agree with the blanket imposition of the card. There's Ian Trust from the Wunan Foundation, who the shadow minister mentioned earlier, who said about the card:

It lost its effectiveness as people worked out ways of getting around it: doing other people's shopping, buying people fuel and so on. That was always probably going to be the case.

So you have Ian Trust saying that the card is not really effective anymore. There was Ms PC Clarke from the Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit, who said:

CAAFLU supports the repeal of the cashless debit card. This bill is a step in the right direction …

Christine Donaldson said she was forced onto the CDC just because of where she lived. She said:

I am an elder … in the Goldfields region of Western Australia and I fully support the amendment bill and agree that the card needs to be abolished.

Then there was Antoinette Braybook from Far North Queensland, the co-chair of Change the Record. She said:

We agree with the government's conclusion that the cashless debit card is not evidence based, is ineffective and is discriminatory.

Beverly Walley from east Kimberley said:

… the cashless debit card has deteriorated quite a lot of life … There had always been parents drinking, drugs and gambling prior to the cashless card being enforced in 2015-16. Having said that, there is no change. Everything is still the same.

These are some of the people living in these communities. I would challenge the shadow minister: has he actually visited any of these communities; has he actually travelled to any of these communities? Because I have been up to the east Kimberley and met with organisations. I have been into Far North Queensland, as has the assistant minister. I've been to Ceduna and spoken to these communities. I have travelled through the Northern Territory, speaking to the women in the town camps, speaking to the women in the refuges in Kununurra. I would challenge the shadow minister to go out there, because he actually might learn a couple of lessons. He might actually go and speak to the people who have been affected.

When I heard from the people who had been affected, I heard that it had been shameful for them and it had ruined their lives. Many have said—these are the lived experiences of people—that they are embarrassed because they don't have enough cash to go to the school fete or they don't have enough cash to go and watch their country football. People are embarrassed, frustrated and shamed by this. One of the absolute furphies that those on the other side propagate is that everyone on the card has a drug and alcohol problem and, therefore, the government has to tell them how to live their lives. I met so many people, including carers and people on a disability support pension, who said they had never touched a drop of alcohol in their lives and they didn't understand why they were being punished.

I do want to get to the evidence, because the opposition has been full of rhetoric and no evidence whatsoever. And the evidence speaks for itself. Not only did we have two ANAO reports that said that this card was not delivering on the outcomes it had promised; we also had the University of Adelaide report in January 2021, which found that the evidence to support the CDC was inconclusive. The study found that any reduction of alcohol and drug use could not be attributed to the effect of the card. Also in that report—this is evidence that the opposition always ignores—it was reported:

… the CDC was reported to introduce widely felt and costly hurdles to many participants in relation to financial planning and money management …

…   …   …

A large proportion of CDC participant survey respondents reported that their quality of life had been affected …

Another study, by the University of South Australia and Monash University, found that the CDC in Ceduna had 'no substantive impact' on gambling and drug and alcohol abuse and no substantive impact on crime or emergency department presentations. And in June 2022, as I said, the ANAO released its latest audit, which was damning.

I would, finally, go to the point when the shadow minister was banging on his chest and talking about a lack of preparation from this side of the House. Let me remind the House of a couple of things. First, the cashless debit card legislation is due to expire on 31 December, and there have been no moves by the former government to put together any legislation to actually extend it. Second, there needed to be a tender process, because the contract was running out for the supply of the cashless debit card. Do you think the former government made any moves to ensure that there would be a smooth tender arrangement? Of course they did not. They made no moves to actually recognise that the tender was ending on the 31st.

In addition to that, we hear a lot about the support services. I've been very, very interested in the support services, because I know a lot of communities really value the support services and have recognised that, while the card hasn't done a lot, the support services have made a difference. Do you think that the former government put any money in the March budget for services past 1 July 2023? Do you think they gave any certainty to these communities that they could continue to rely on these support services? No. How much money was in the budget after 1 July 2023? Zero. So to have the opposition come and talk about abandoning communities, about leaving them behind and about not supporting them is absolutely appalling, because they did not put the provisions in to support those who actually needed those services. They can come in here and cry their crocodile tears, but there was no action and no preparation by the former government in terms of what would happen come 31 December.

I have been consulting with communities, I've been speaking with communities and I will continue to work with communities on the future of voluntary income management. I will continue to work with the Family Responsibilities Commission, recognising the important work they do and working to make sure that their work is not impeded. But we will not stand for communities, sometimes picked by the local member, having an imposition of a blanket card for anyone on a working-age payment. That leads to stigmatisation and significant problems when it comes to practical life decisions.

This government will work with communities. We will continue to listen to them, work with them and deliver for them, unlike those opposite.


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