Monday, 12 February 2018
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017; In Committee
I just want to reinforce Labor's position. Labor believes that, given that the government seems to have crossbench support—for what reason, I don't know—these amendments will make it, as Senator Siewert says, a modicum better. And we appreciate your support for that, to make it better.
We do not support the national rollout of this card. I think what is clear is that this government would roll this out nationally if it could. This is the type of overbearing position that this government adopts when it comes to some of our most disadvantaged people in the community. Many people in the community live on an income that many of us could not ever contemplate living on, and they do it better than most of us ever could. They look after their families, they look after the health of the family, they look after the education of the family, and they do that on an income that is tiny. To say to them, 'You must have this cashless debit card,' is the height of arrogance from this government.
We are of the clear view that you should only ever implement a cashless debit card when there has been a proper process of consultation, a clear and unequivocal process of consultation, and a process of consultation that is far more transparent that what we've heard tonight—where the government can't tell this place of one group who don't support the card out of the 86 that were consulted. You know, it is just bizarre that, while we're in the chamber debating this bill, no-one of the advisers and the minister can tell us who opposed the card and why they opposed the card—these are important issues. So we oppose the national rollout. We oppose a rollout in any individual community without a proper evidence based approach, and that has not been done, even where it's being rolled out now. We take the view that the ORIMA evaluation was flawed; that was the evidence that came to the Senate inquiry. And, on that basis, the amendments that we put—given that it looks like NXT are behaving like a sub-branch of the Liberal Party—are where we are at. We think the amendments will take some of the sharp edges off. The process that we would have in government would be proper consultation that is understood by the community and the public generally, not the secret approach that's been adopted by the government, and not setting out to force this onto people who, quite clearly, can handle their finances no matter how difficult it is on social security payments in this country.
I appreciate the Greens' support and the amendments that they've outlined. I think that's appropriate. I understand their opposition to the bill. We would, hopefully, have some of the crossbench listen to the debate, take into account the incapacity of the government to answer some basic questions on the rollout of this card, and adopt a process in the future that is transparent and fair.
The CHAIR: The question is that amendment (2) on sheet 8354 be agreed to.