Senate debates

Monday, 26 September 2022


Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022; Second Reading

9:25 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to rise on behalf of those rural and regional communities who seek to ensure that the cashless debit card remains a part of the way they manage their families' lives and the way they manage the provision of essential provisions for their families.

Sometimes when we work in this city, and we come from the places that most of us in this place come from, the whole concept of a cashless debit card seems an anathema in a modern Australian environment—an affluent country, one of the top economic performers in the globe. Yet the reality, and sometimes the confronting reality, that we have to face, as the men and women who are tasked with leading our country at this period of our history, is that not everybody has been given the particular gifts that most of us that sit in this place have been given: a great education, supportive family and friends, and a community that's backed us and our potential.

The reality is there are people, many Indigenous in this country, who haven't been given that opportunity. The cashless debit card has actually provided, particularly women and children, a safety net, a security to ensure that they can provide for the very real and essential needs that humans need to grow and prosper, particularly when they're far from the purvey of authority. That occurs in the far corners of this great nation and it occurs in the smaller communities of this great nation, and it occurs in silence because they do not have voices of power, they do not have the affluence that allows for them a strong voice. They're not the loudest person at the Uluru Statement and they're not the loudest person in their town halls. They are predominantly mothers in very remote parts of this country who struggle with a level of domestic violence and drug- and alcohol-fuelled abuse to both them and their children, that we don't speak often enough about here and we don't speak realistically enough about here. We're very heavy on the symbolism in this place.

I am a former minister who negotiated the Barkly Regional Deal with the Northern Territory government and the Barkly Regional Council following a terrible incident with a young two-year-old toddler in Tennant Creek. That really drove our coalition government under Malcolm Turnbull, the Territory government under former chief minister Gunner and the local government of Barkly Regional Council, to say: enough—enough of being silent about what is happening in these communities.

We all say we want to help and we all say we want to make it better. Well, you know what, the facts are, as much as you philosophically might not like it, the cashless debit card made it better. You know how we know that? It's not because we asked the rich guys. It's not because we asked the guys and girls in power. It's not because we asked the usual suspects, but because this Senate took our committees and our ears into communities on the ground, and we listened to the women and we listened to the children. We listened to those who are actually impacted by the realities of cash and income being used for negative purposes. And what is the outcome? Kids don't get fed before they go to school. Kids don't have footy boots to be the potentially magnificent AFL athletes—and I declare a bias—that Aboriginal boys and girls all aspire to be. We know from their stories that this makes a difference, and it doesn't matter whether it's Ceduna, the NT or Queensland—the Cashless Debit Card made an impact on and a difference to the people it was supposed to make a difference for, and that was a good thing.

Listening to the debate today I heard Senator Malarndirri McCarthy come into this place and articulate that the greatest achievement she will achieve in this place is to ensure that she sees the death of the Cashless Debit Card, but she's really turning her back on the women, the children, and the small remote and rural Indigenous communities. The data says this card has made a difference to them.


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