House debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Questions without Notice

Welfare Reform

3:03 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government's stable and certain approach to welfare is helping Australians move out of welfare and into jobs through the cashless debit card trials?

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for his question and his ongoing interest and, more importantly, belief in a stable and certain approach to the welfare system. I'm more than happy to respond to the member as the minister responsible for service delivery, noting Minister Ruston is the policy owner.

On this side, we are absolutely committed to the best ways to support individuals, families and communities in places where high levels of welfare dependence coexist with high levels of harm. That's why we rolled out the cashless debit card to four communities across this country that stood up to volunteer to trial the card and stood up for real change in their communities.

The first of these communities was Ceduna and the surrounding regions, in the member's own electorate, after calls for help from the community to fix real barriers to employment: the plight of alcohol abuse, drugs, domestic violence and gambling—all things that have been a scourge on those communities. Those communities are now seeing exceptional results that we as a parliament can be proud of. In Ceduna there is a strong and a uniform theme coming out: the streets of their towns are quieter and it feels safer. Call-outs to the night patrols have reduced from several call-outs per night to only one or two call-outs per fortnight. Police are reporting significant decreases in late-night call-outs for domestic violence, and that's something all of us should welcome here in this place. Health officials and emergency department staff report significant reductions in mental health and domestic violence presentations. Corey McLellan, an Indigenous leader from the community of Koonibba, near Ceduna, has said: 'This is the best thing that has happened to our community. We'd do it again; absolutely.'

Over a dozen research projects attest to the trial's success. Most recently, the baseline report in the Goldfields has reaffirmed the previous findings that we are seeing: a decrease in drug and alcohol issues, a decrease in violent crime and antisocial behaviour, improvements in child health and wellbeing, improved financial management, and ongoing and even strengthened community support. This is completely consistent with the independent evaluation released in 2017 that found that the cashless debit card had a considerable positive impact in the first two trial sites. It includes 41 per cent of participants reporting drinking less frequently, 48 per cent of participants surveyed reporting drugs less frequently and 48 per cent of those who gambled before the trial now reporting gambling less often. Doing nothing is not an option, and, combined with the investment in social services, we're seeing a real investment in helping people.