Senate debates

Monday, 12 February 2018


Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017; In Committee

8:36 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

So we don't know how much it's costing because that's commercial-in-confidence, but we're told, 'Trust us; it's a thousand bucks per head'. We're told there's going to be new technology, but we don't have a time line, and we are told that's commercial-in-confidence. That's the case that we're facing here.

The Greens won't be supporting any of these amendments. We don't support the cashless welfare card. We don't support the extension of the East Kimberley trial or the Ceduna trial. Contrary to the oft stated facts around reduction in drinking et cetera, that's not borne out by a proper read of the ORIMA wave 2 report. If you read the full report, even in there they can't gloss over the lack of information, the anecdotal approach and the flawed approach to the methodology. It's simply not borne out, so we won't support an extension to the two trial areas, and we certainly won't be supporting the expansion to a third trial site.

I'm speculating here, but, given that NXT signalled that they were open to considering another trial site, although this is a government amendment, it's clearly been done in response to the NXT's support for a third trial site in my state of Western Australia, in the Goldfields, when we already have one trial site. I think it's a bit rich, quite frankly, for them to say, 'Yes, we'll support another trial site; make it in Western Australia.' I've got deep concerns around that. I've got deep concerns that, although they've said there's not enough information to make a decision on the two existing trial sites, the minister just articulated that they've condemned over 3,000 income support recipients in the Goldfields to living on this flawed card with a method that's flawed. And guess what? It's happening on the day that the government's tabled the Closing the gap report, which articulated that we're not going to meet targets on life expectancy, on school attendance, on reading and numeracy, and on employment. We already know in that Goldfields area that we have significant impacts of the flawed CDP program —again, another flawed program. We've spoken at length about that particular issue in this place as well.

We don't support this legislation. We don't support the amendments, because they don't improve it. We disagree with the ALP about extending the two existing trial sites for another 12 months. A little bit of advice to the ALP: drop the addiction to income management. Really, it doesn't work and it's time to move on.

To the government I say: we won't be supporting these amendments. We don't support the cashless welfare card. It's flawed policy. It ignores the words from the Prime Minister's own mouth that you do things with the community, not to the community. You can dress it up all you like and say that you've consulted. You haven't consulted with the people who are affected by this card. That is very, very clear, and it has been admitted in the evidence, so you can't deny it. Even a number of the leaders in the East Kimberley have withdrawn their support, as did a number of people who originally signed up in Ceduna once they realised what this was about and the impact it was having. In fact, I was talking to a participant from Ceduna again very recently and they said, 'One of the things it has managed to do is unite the Aboriginal and the non-Aboriginal communities a lot more than they used to be, because they don't support the cashless welfare card.' So it's achieved something there! But it's been at great grief, personal pain and discomfort to many people on the card. We won't be supporting these amendments.


No comments