Monday, 12 February 2018
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017; In Committee
The government will not be agreeing to the opposition's amendments to the bill. The amendments put forward would prohibit the proposed expansion of the card and effectively restrict the proper implementation of a trial. While the government welcomes the opposition's support of the current sites and the extension of the trial time frame, we don't believe the opposition has considered what its amendments would mean for existing trial sites. The proposed opposition amendments with regard to provided services and community consultation will place an unnecessary and potentially harmful administrative burden on the department when it needs to respond to community requests.
The government rejects the proposed amendment regarding the trial site limit because it would prohibit the expansion of the debit card to the Goldfields region in Western Australia. There is a strong need for additional tools to address social harm in the Goldfields. WA Police Force data indicated the domestic and non-domestic assault rate in the Goldfields is more than twice the state average. Alcohol is a factor in two-thirds of the domestic assaults from 2009 to 2013 and half of all non-domestic assaults. Alcohol-related hospitalisations and deaths were 25 per cent higher than the WA state average from 2007 to 2011. In a statement to the Senate inquiry into the bill in late 2017, Shire of Leonora CEO Mr James Epis said:
In the last three years, it has been devastating to see the escalation of antisocial behaviour between individuals caused by alcohol and drugs. This has often reached crisis levels.
Shire of Laverton President Mr Patrick Hill told the community:
We are at wit's end. We want to see a safe community … We don't want to see this abuse. We don't want to see kids running around with dirty nappies on for a couple of days and no clothes.
In September 2017, the Prime Minister announced the government's intention to expand the cashless debit card to the Goldfields following extensive consultation across the community. Between May and December 2017, over 300 consultations were held, with over 86 organisations and 10 public information sessions. Consultation is ongoing in the Goldfields in preparation for implementation. Momentum in the community for the trial has been considerable, with a number of working groups established in late 2017 to assist with implementation, planning and oversight. The expansion of the program demonstrates our commitment to provide a strong social welfare safety net reducing social harm in areas with high levels of welfare dependency and supporting vulnerable people, families and communities.