Thursday, 8 September 2022
Matters of Public Importance
Pensions and Benefits
The first community that adopted the cashless debit card was in my electorate, in Ceduna, and I refute many of the allegations that the assistant minister just made, including that the community was not consulted. It is absurd. It was the community of Ceduna that set the 80-20 split. We have a far west Indigenous leaders group there. They met every two weeks during the implementation and rollout of this program. Allegations were made by the minister that people say they can't go to the football and use their card. That is incorrect. It can be used for school lunches. It can be used at the football gate. It can be used inside the club rooms at the football. It can't be used to buy alcohol while you're at the football, though, I'm afraid. That is what it is designed for.
It's worth reflecting that this card was brought in in the aftermath of the state coroner's report in South Australia following six deaths in Ceduna over less than a decade related to alcohol abuse. There was another one while the commissioner was inquiring. We have not had any such deaths—touch wood—in the period since the card was introduced.
I absolutely refute the allegation that the people of Ceduna do not support the card. They know full well that I am in favour of the card, and they keep supporting me. People can check the ballot figures in Ceduna if they wish. So it is with a heavy heart I see the fact that the government is intent on taking this ideological step. I am absolutely convinced we will see a lift in violence, a lift in antisocial behaviour such as drunkenness and quite likely some untimely deaths. I have told the minister quietly—and I thank her for coming out to Ceduna, but she came with the decision already made—that, however you cut this up, she and the government will be held responsible for the outcomes.
I noted a couple of the submissions to the Senate inquiry as it went around, and I'll refer particularly to Allan Suter's contribution. He went through that period in which the Ceduna community set the 80-20 split. Not only did they set the 80-20 split; they embedded in the design of the card that people could be reduced to a 60-40 split if they liked and met certain criteria. He is of this opinion: 'It was a clear demonstration of how the removal of the cashless debit card in Ceduna will damage our community. I would encourage some to do some homework about the time during the pandemic when support payments were made outside the cashless debit card system. Our community experienced severe disruptions, including drunken rioting, family violence and major social disruption due to substance abuse. When these extra payments stopped, so did the trouble.' He went on to say: 'Unfortunately, most Ceduna residents fear that removal of the cashless debit card will turn back the clock to where we were prior to 2008. When this happens, the opponents of the cashless debit card and the Australian government will be totally responsible for the resulting increases in family violence, public intoxication and, potentially, more deaths such as those covered by the 2008 coronial inquiry.' I thought perhaps the Senate committee, when they were inquiring into this, may have listened to Noel Pearson when he told the meeting: 'Labor's decision to outlaw the cashless debit card nationwide would ruin two decades of progress and reforms in Cape York.'
That's because the card there has replaced the BasicsCard, and the BasicsCard was a very clunky type of system; whereas the cashless debit card is pretty seamless. I don't carry one in my pocket, but the member for O'Connor does, and you cannot check it visibly, from any kind of distance, to see that it is anything but a normal card.
So I am very concerned about what is happening in my community of Ceduna. It's a community that has come so far in the last decade that it's barely recognisable from what it was. And when you compare it to similar communities around Australia— (Time expired)