House debates

Tuesday, 19 February 2019


O'Connor Electorate: Cashless Debit Card

7:35 pm

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to update the House on the cashless debit card trial outcomes we're seeing in the Goldfields region of my electorate of O'Connor. In December last year, our government announced their intention to extend this trial until 30 June 2020. I stand here today to categorically state that the Goldfields trial is working. Children are being better fed and clothed, and the participants say that they are now able to budget and save. Reductions in alcohol related crime and family violence have been reported by police, medical and social support agencies. The University of Adelaide has been correlating baseline data on the Goldfields trial but, unfortunately, this has not yet been published. The last ORIMA evaluation was released in August 2017, but it only provided feedback on the Ceduna and East Kimberley trial sites.

The Goldfields trial rollout began in March 2018, and over 3,000 participants were activated over the ensuing months. Participants were roughly 50 per cent Indigenous and 50 per cent non-Indigenous working-age welfare recipients and, for the first time, the trial included disability support pensioners and carers. This is what makes our Goldfields trial unique—it has the most diverse participants to date. I firmly believe that extending the Goldfields cashless debit card trial beyond 2019 is essential. It will allow time for the collection and processing of meaningful data to provide the most comprehensive evaluation of the cashless debit card to date.

Meanwhile, on the ground in the Goldfields we have just come through what is traditionally the most challenging time of the year for social unrest and law and order. Every summer there is an influx of people into towns like Leonora and Laverton and the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. This year, it was apparent that these transient visitors, who are not on the card, were responsible for much of the alcohol related social unrest, violence and crime. It is for this reason many of the Goldfields leaders are calling to expand the cashless debit card trial to include neighbouring communities. Before the Christmas period, we had promising police reports from the Goldfields. In Laverton, assaults were down by 32 per cent. In Leonora, burglaries and property related crime had significantly reduced and overall crime was down by 42 per cent. Meanwhile, the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder was experiencing some of the lowest incidents of burglaries, assaults and domestic violence in many years, with overall crime rates down 22 per cent in the last half of 2018.

During the last nine months, I've met countless people who've told me that the card has helped turn their life around. Participants have recounted spending less money on drinking, gambling and drugs and more money on the necessities of life. One parent told me of taking their child to McDonald's for their first birthday party ever. I also refer to Nichole, a young disability support pensioner, who only this morning updated me saying that she'd not only saved enough money to move out of home but she'd joined a gym, had lost 10 kilos and was feeling fantastic.

Despite all these positives, on 23 January opposition leader Bill Shorten was reported on the front page of the Kalgoorlie Miner as saying that, if elected, he would shut down all the cashless debit card programs. Mr Shorten, I invite you, along with other Labor and Greens members and senators, to come to O'Connor—and I extend that invitation to the member for Mayo, who's in the chamber tonight—to meet with those in the Goldfields whose lives are improving thanks to this card. I invite you to talk to civic leaders, Aboriginal elders, support service providers, disability advocates, local businesses, schools and families, who are all seeing the benefits of the cashless debit card in their communities. Please come to the Goldfields and see for yourself.

People are settling into life on the card, and the positive changes are gathering momentum. The Goldfields now has a great opportunity to break the cycle of welfare dependency, alcohol abuse and decades of intergenerational disadvantage. I reiterate that the cashless debit card alone will not fix everything, and I do credit state and local government agencies for responding with increased policing and community safety plans. For my part, I'll continue to call for services which complement the cashless debit card, like the financial capability and wellbeing service recently contracted to Centrecare. I would also like to see better coordination of the plethora of existing services to avoid the duplication of some services and to prevent gaps in others.

In the case of people trying to kick their addictions, I'm on the record as a firm supporter of Goldfields Rehabilitation Services Inc. Most recently, I wrote to the state commissioner, calling for the mental health commission funding to run their prohibition program at the full 18-bed capacity and to operate their newly completed four-bed medical detoxification facilities. I will continue to do my very best to support the card participants and I will fight for the extension of what I firmly believe is a successful cashless debit card trial in the Goldfields.