Thursday, 23 August 2018
O'Connor Electorate: Pensions and Benefits
I rise today to commend the Senate for this week rejecting disallowance motions aimed at halting the cashless debit card trial, which is making fabulous progress in the Goldfields region of my electorate. Senator Rachel Siewert is obsessed with halting this trial. On Monday night her attempts were resoundingly voted down, with 41 senators opposing the suggestion. This was immediately followed by the defeat of Labor Senator Doug Cameron's disallowance motion to halt the progress of the Goldfields trial.
Senator Siewert has only visited this part of my electorate on a couple of occasions. I don't believe she has ever stayed long enough to witness firsthand the social issues that the region has experienced. Street drinking and fighting, homelessness, shoplifting, lawlessness and, probably saddest of all, children without parental support, children without food in their tummies and children not safe in their own homes.
There are over 3,000 participants on this trial. I am in constant contact with the Department of Social Services, who are responsible for the rollout and maintenance of this program; with those who work as local partners in the community hubs; with merchants and community leaders; and with participants directly who have reached out to me and received assistance. I promise you: this card is working. But don't just take my word for it. The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mayor, John Bowler, said that, although the card only started earlier this year, 'all indications were positive'.
Last week police reported to a liquor accord meeting that the level of antisocial behaviour on the streets was clearly down in the past couple of months. Bottle shop retailers reported that there were considerably fewer disturbances around their premises. Those who are rorting the card are being brought to account, with one hotel now being blocked from accepting the card. With respect to their two community hubs, Mayor Bowler also noted:
… the number of complainants was falling as the card holders learnt that in most cases the level of inconvenience was minimal.
The card is working not only in the twin cities but also in the four shires. In Coolgardie, Laverton and Leonora, merchants are reporting families shopping for food and supplies in quantities that they have not seen before.
I leave the final word to CEO of the Shire of Leonora, Jim Epis, who said:
Some of our Senators only listen to what interests them and not the community … following the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee's public hearing in Kalgoorlie on the 12th October 2017, an offer was made to those Senators in attendance to visit Leonora at Council's expense to see for themselves how our communities were being destroyed … but they couldn't even be bothered acknowledging receipt of the offer. I'm convinced they are just afraid of the truth.
Can I also add that the Cashless Debit Card is doing wonders for the Leonora Community. It's so peaceful, even the dogs have stopped barking at night.