Senate debates

Monday, 12 February 2018


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

9:03 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | Hansard source

I will move opposition amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8354 together:

(1)Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (lines 4 to 6), to be opposed.


(2) Schedule 1, item 2, page 3 (lines 7 and 8), omit the item, substitute:

2 Paragraph 124PF(1 ) ( b)

Omit "30 June 2018", substitute "30 June 2019".

3 Subsection 124PF(2)

Omit "up to 3 discrete", substitute "2 discrete".

4 Paragraph 124PK(2 ) ( a)

After "voluntary participant", insert "reached in accordance with the requirements set out in a determination made under subsection (6)".

5 At the end of section 124PK


(6) The Secretary must, by legislative instrument, determine requirements (including procedural requirements) for how an agreement of a kind mentioned in paragraph (2) (a) must be reached.

6 At the end of Division 3 of Part 3D


Subdivision C—Social support services

124PMA Social support services to be provided in trial areas

(1) The Minister must, by legislative instrument, specify social support services that are to be provided or supported by the Secretary in each trial area.

(2) The specified social support services must be able to adequately provide for the care, protection, welfare or safety of adults, children or families in the trial area. (trial of cashless welfare arrangements]

The CHAIR: Do you wish to speak to the amendments?

I would like to repeat that there is insufficient evidence at this stage to show that the existing trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley are working. The Senate inquiry heard that ORIMA evaluations of the trial are unreliable and that no empirical judgement can be made on the basis of the information collected. In its own consultations, Labor heard mixed results, with some participants in Ceduna and in the East Kimberley trials finding the cashless debit card to be useful, while others thought it had not made any improvements to their lives. In addition to the poor quality of the evaluation, Labor believe that the Ceduna and East Kimberley trials have not been running long enough to form solid conclusions about the success or otherwise of the trials. Labor supported the initiation of the trials in East Kimberley and supports them continuing for a further year to allow more time to reliably determine whether they have been successful. We require a more rigorous evaluation of the cashless debit card in the existing trial areas prior to any expansion.

The trials are also of a significant cost. We've heard tonight that it's around $25.5 million, or $12,000 per participant, and the response we got from the minister was that it would be even more expensive than that. We know that the government has spent $1.6 million for ORIMA Research to provide what we believe is substandard evaluation.

We just don't think enough has been done by the government to justify the expansion. We do support the establishment of trials in East Kimberley and Ceduna on the basis that the communities wanted, and had consented to, the trial card. We consulted with communities in the proposed trial regions of Bundaberg and Goldfields, and, as well as the evidence presented in the Senate inquiry, it's clear there's been insufficient government consultation with these communities. The minister could provide us with the names of councils who supported the expansion but couldn't tell us the name of one group, among the 86 participants in the consultation, who had opposed the trial. It's not that no-one opposed the trial; it's that the minister didn't have that information and the advisers couldn't provide that information. The minister has taken that on notice, and I'll be pleased to get the result of that agreement to take those issues on notice and provide those details.

The government must provide a formal process of consultation and a clear framework for establishing whether communities consent to the trial. The minister had an opportunity to take us through how the consultation worked, who opposed the trial and the issues that were raised by those groups, among the 86 that participated, who opposed the trial, but we didn't get that. That's pretty typical of this government: they determine what they want to do and they just impose it on local communities. Then they offer a bauble or a small gift of something that the NXT party thinks is a good thing, so the NXT votes with them. It's pretty typical of NXT these days. They are another Liberal Party supporting the government in its endeavours to implement what we think is flawed legislation and to bringing flawed bills to this parliament. We believe there's insufficient evidence. We would require a more rigorous evaluation.

Our amendments seek to improve the way the trial work in Ceduna and East Kimberley by ensuring that the rules by which a community body makes recommendations to the secretary are transparent and made public. Labor, in its own consultations, heard the way in which the decisions made by the community body were not always clear and transparent.

The government must specify funding for wraparound services in trial sites formally in the legislation. The wraparound services are important. There is no point in putting these cards in without appropriate wraparound services. The minister could give me a figure on what wraparound services cost across the country, but, for the bill that's been brought here, we didn't get any specified idea of what the wraparound services were costing. We are seeking that the government specify the social support services to ensure trial participants get the alcohol rehabilitation, mental health and other support services they need. The funding allocated in the new services being delivered is not clear to trial participants. This amendment requires the information be made public.

Our amendments would improve this bill, and on that basis I move the amendments on sheet 8354 and seek that they be moved as one.


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