Senate debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Regulations and Determinations

Social Security (Administration) (Trial Area – Ceduna and Surrounding Region) Determination 2015; Disallowance

6:17 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) Share this | Hansard source

Obviously we do not support the disallowance motion that has been put forward by Senator Siewert. The Senate passed this legislation to trial a cashless debit card for Centrelink recipients in communities that have significant—and I underline the word 'significant'—alcohol, drug and/or gambling problems. The locations have been chosen on the basis of the openness of the community to participate in the program, where the community wishes to actively address the welfare-fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse that exists within the community.

In my home state of South Australia, Ceduna has been selected as the first community, and can I state that there is overwhelming support by the entire community for this trial to take place in that town. Ceduna is only a little town; it has about 4,500 people. I have spent a lot of time in Ceduna, and I have spent a lot of time in the communities, going out to places like 18 Tank. I am sure that many of the people who have made a contribution to this debate have never been out to 18 Tank to see the kind of devastation that is created in a community by, particularly, the alcohol impacts on that community.

The community leaders in Ceduna actually approached the government to explore the idea of this cashless debit card, and they are absolutely supporting the introduction of it. The community sees this in a very positive way, as an opportunity to try to overcome some of the problems that the community currently suffers. There are some horrific statistics just on that one community alone. In a community of, as I said, only about 4,500 people, in 2013-14, for example, they had in excess of 4,600 admissions into the sobering-up centre. When you consider the size of the community, that is pretty horrendous. Hospitalisations due to assault were 68 times the national average. So, as you can see, the community had every right to be concerned, and I think that we as a government have a responsibility to respond to the request by that community for help, because you can see the problem is extraordinarily significant.

The disallowance motion is basically seeking to overturn a decision of the Senate, which passed this legislation overwhelmingly, with the support of seven of the crossbenchers as well as the ALP—and I am delighted that the ALP, the opposition, are prepared to stick with this particular program. Obviously they understand the importance not just to the Ceduna community but to many other communities around Australia where alcohol, drug and gambling abuse is having a significant impact on the members of those communities. Senator Siewert's disallowance motion also ignores the calls from the community to try to get on top of this issue, which is really disappointing. It seems really quite ironic that somebody who purports to be supporting and looking after the interests of the community is actually in this place seeking to disallow an instrument that the communities have asked for themselves.

Obviously the government is vehemently opposed to this particular disallowance motion, because we believe it not only robs the Ceduna community of the opportunity to try out a new idea to try to address an issue that is really significant in that community but also denies the opportunity for other communities to be able to benefit from the trial that is run in this community and the trials that, I understand, are to be rolled out in Wyndham and Kununurra in the East Kimberley, subject to the outcome of this trial in Ceduna. I am really proud to be part of a government that is actively supporting a community in my state—a community that is crying out in need.

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