Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018; Second Reading
I was discussing the idea of the government conducting an independent review for the evaluation of the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay trial. This review would have to be undertaken by independent evaluation experts with significant expertise in the social and economic aspects of welfare policy. It would begin immediately when the minister receives the evaluation, and would be completed within six months, conducted by an independent panel with expertise in the social and economic aspects of welfare policy. The expert would consult participants in the trial and make recommendations as to whether the cashless welfare arrangements are effective and should be implemented elsewhere. My hope would be that the National Audit Office, given the quality of its work and its expertise in this particular area, conduct this review, but it is not within the powers of the Senate to make a direction in that regard.
I know that many are opposed to the trials, and that there has been criticism of the extent of community consultation, the implementation of the card, its outcomes and the shortcomings of the evaluations themselves, but there are recipients of the cashless debit card in the trials to date who have welcomed it. They say, for example, that in their cases it has prevented others—be they spouses, family members or not—from accessing their social security payments and excessively spending them on nonessential items, usually alcohol, to the harm of those whom the payments need to assist. In my consideration of this bill I have noted these people, as well as those recipients and advocacy groups that have not welcomed these initiatives in the cashless debit card.
I will not support further trials or extensions of the cashless welfare card if these trials are shown to be detrimental to its objectives; however, I genuinely believe in giving initiatives a chance if they have the potential to help the vulnerable in society. I will always seek to conduct my politics based on reliable data and evaluation. Therefore I will be asking the Senate to support an independent evaluation of the government's review of the card. If we can get reliable data out of this trial and have the review of that data independently evaluated and reported, we will significantly better understand what we should do in the future with regard to the cashless debit card.