Senate debates

Monday, 20 August 2018

Regulations and Determinations

Social Security (Administration) (Trial of Cashless Welfare Arrangements) Determination 2018, Social Security (Administration) (Trial — Declinable Transactions and Welfare Restricted Bank Account) Determination 2018; Disallowance

5:27 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the following legislative instruments, made under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, be disallowed:

(a) the Social Security (Administration) (Trial of Cashless Welfare Arrangements) Determination 2018 [F2018L00245]; and

(b) the Social Security (Administration) (Trial—Declinable Transactions and Welfare Restricted Bank Account) Determination 2018 [F2018L00251].

These two instruments that we are debating today relate to all three of the current cashless welfare card trial sites—specifically the Ceduna, East Kimberley and Goldfields areas.

The first of these instruments, the Social Security (Administration) (Trial of Cashless Welfare Arrangements) Determination 2018, sets out a number of matters relating to the Goldfields trial. Firstly, it excludes Plumridge Lakes from the Goldfields trial area. Secondly, it determines the class of participants for the Goldfields trial area. The determination also revokes and remakes the determinations previously in place for the East Kimberley and Ceduna trial areas. The only provisions from the previous determinations that are not contained in this determination relate to the boundaries of the Ceduna and East Kimberley trial sites, as this information is now contained within the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, following amendments made by the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Act 2018. Accordingly, the determination retains the provisions that determine the class of participants for these two trial areas. The determination also repeals and remakes four other legislative instruments—specifically, the Social Security (Administration) (Trial—Community Body—Ceduna Region Community Panel) Authorisation 2016, the Social Security (Administration) (Trial—Community Body—East Kimberley Region Community Panels) Authorisation 2016, the Social Security (Administration) (Trial—Excluded Voluntary Participants) Determination 2016 and the Social Security (Administration) (Trial—Variation of Percentage Amounts) Determination 2016. These legislative instruments were due to cease on 30 June 2018.

The second of these two instruments, the Social Security (Administration) (Trial—Declinable Transactions and Welfare Restricted Bank Account) Determination 2018, sets out that the kind of bank account to be determined by participants for the receipt of restrictable payments during the trial is a debit card account with Indue Ltd. The terms and conditions in relation to a welfare restricted bank account and declared kinds of business in relation to which transactions involving money in a welfare restricted bank account may be declined by a financial institution. It repeals and remakes two legislative instruments, specifically the Social Security (Administration) (Trial—Declinable Transactions) Determination 2016 and the Social Security (Administration) (Welfare Restricted Bank Account) Determination 2016. These were due to cease on 30 June 2018.

With regard to these two instruments, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights reiterated the concerns it raised when commenting on earlier versions of these determinations. Those concerns were specifically in relation to the declinable transactions determination; the compulsory nature of the scheme; the restriction of a person's agency; and, in relation to the trial of cashless welfare arrangements determinations, whether the measures were—or are—rationally connected to the objective. They made specific reference to the Goldfields region, saying:

It is also not clear from the statement of compatibility to the trial of cashless welfare arrangements determination how the findings of the ORIMA report are relevant to the effectiveness of the measure as it applies to the Goldfields region.

In order for the cashless debit card scheme to function according to the government's intentions, a number of rules need to be set out in legislative instruments.

Both of the instruments before us today deal with at least one aspect of the cashless debit card scheme that is essential for the scheme to be implemented. If these instruments are disallowed—and I really hope they are—the scheme could not continue as it is. Just to be really clear, what the Australian Greens are presenting to the Senate is the opportunity to knock off these cashless welfare card trials. The Australian Greens have been opposed to the cashless debit card scheme from the beginning and have advocated for it to be scrapped at every opportunity since its inception. We will continue to do so if these disallowances are not supported.

It is a form of compulsory income management. The evidence from the Northern Territory intervention showed this approach does not work. In fact, the evaluation of the Northern Territory intervention showed that it met none of its objectives. I don't think any fair-minded person would say that the situation has improved in the Northern Territory. In fact, the indicators show that things have become worse. We are seeing an increasing number of children, for example, going into out-of-home care. Of course, we've had the royal commission into juvenile detention since the intervention has been in place. Yet the government decided that 10 years of evidence—in fact, it's now 11 years—were insufficient and decided that they would try compulsory income management yet again.

Given the recent Australian National Audit Office report entitled The implementation and performance of the cashless debit card trial, it is clearer than ever that the evidence just isn't there to support the continuation of these trials or, for that matter, a further rollout of the card, which will be debated—well, it's on the red for tonight. Who knows if we'll get there? This week, the government wants to debate the further rollout of the card into the Hinkler region in Queensland. It is, to anybody's mind, a damning report. It found that the department's approach to monitoring and evaluation was inadequate and that, consequently, it was difficult to conclude whether there had been a reduction in social harm and whether the card was a lower cost welfare-quarantining approach. Additionally, the report found that there were deficiencies in elements of the procurement process, there was a lack of robustness in data collection and the department's evaluation did not use all of the available administrative data to measure the impact of the trial. Finally, the report found that the trial was not designed to test the scalability of the cashless debit card and that there was no plan in place to undertake further evaluation.

I've got to say that none of this is surprising to me—none of it—because that's exactly what people who read the ORIMA reports, both wave 1 and wave 2, of the first two trials commented on at the time. The academic literature pointed out the extreme flaws in the evaluation process. We said in this chamber what the evaluation process would do. We debated in this chamber that there was nothing to compare the trial sites to and that the adequate baseline data collection hadn't happened. On numerous occasions in this place, the Greens have raised the inadequacy of the evaluations. We have raised the fact that a number of the datasets were conveniently not being used.

When the government first announced the trials, they didn't collect that baseline data. They didn't have the baseline data there. They didn't have a compatible site to compare the two trial sites with—in other words, to adequately test the effectiveness of the card compared to providing decent services to these trial site areas. When the ORIMA reports were released, we and others, as I just articulated, pointed out the flaws and were critical of their reliability. We also pointed out that the government could not use those reports to justify rolling out further trials or the continuation of the trials in East Kimberley and Ceduna, yet that's exactly what the government did: 'Let's not worry about the evidence'—even though they tried to claim there was evidence. 'Let's not worry about the evidence, and let's just proceed.' In other words, it's an ideological decision that this government takes to income quarantining and income management, because quite clearly the ANAO report shows that the evidence of reduced social harm is not there.

We pointed out that connecting the initial two sites meant that we did not get a clear picture of the situation in East Kimberley and in Ceduna independent of one another, because the reports conveniently rolled data in together. It was pointed out that alcohol restrictions in Kununurra made it impossible to make any plausible claims about the card and that the evaluation reports were missing basic information, such as police statistics from the trial areas. We had to get that information through the state parliament of Western Australia. The evaluation was widely criticised by social scientists and academics for not adhering to academic standards, for having major flaws in both methodology and the way it was reported, and for relying on piecemeal and anecdotal evidence. Their concerns included research design, sampling strategy, questionnaire design, recall bias, social desirability bias, rising refusal rates of those surveyed, and the combination of longitudinal and intercept data, amongst others—in other words, a list as long as your arm.

Despite the ANAO's report on the limitations of the evaluation and the general lack of evidence that the trial communities or, indeed, the majority of recipients have benefited and there has been a reduction in social harm, the government is determined to persist with the current trial areas and, in fact, the broader concept of the card and rolling it out further, instead of implementing policy based on evidence. The scheme is ideological and punitive—one that punishes those subject to it purely because of where they live and the fact that they receive an income support payment, regardless of their personal circumstances.

The scheme restricts 80 per cent of a person's income support payment so that it cannot be used to purchase restricted products, leaving only 20 per cent that can be withdrawn as cash and spent at the person's discretion on whatever they want. The scheme discriminates against people on low incomes and indirectly discriminates against First Nations people, who make up a significant number of the scheme's participants. The government believes that the scheme will magically solve problems of addiction; however, if it were that simple, a lot of medical professionals would simply be out of a job. The government also thinks that it will magically produce jobs where there are currently a low number of jobs or where jobs don't in fact exist.

Addressing complex health and social issues through our social safety net is a flawed approach. There is a lack of a causal link between receiving income support and experiencing drug, alcohol or gambling problems. Instead of wasting public money on compulsory income management, the government should be addressing the underlying causes of disadvantage, intergenerational trauma and lack of work opportunity, and investing in well-funded, timely wraparound services that genuinely help those who are struggling with substance abuse or gambling issues. This is what the communities of the trial sites have been calling for. No-one denies that we need to be investing to make sure that we are addressing these very complex issues, but we strongly disagree with the way the government is directing that funding.

Unfortunately, communities have been subject to the card regardless of whether or not they wanted it, which appears to have led to divisions within the communities. Despite the government's claim, consultation has been poor, particularly with those who are subject to the cashless welfare card. In some cases, it has been secretive. Communities have certainly been unable to provide free, prior and informed consent. For as long as the scheme has been running, we have heard from those subject to it that it is disrespectful, stigmatising, humiliating, intrusive, harmful and disempowering.

We have heard accounts of individuals having difficulties using the card to purchase necessities and pay their bills, experiencing increased hardship, and running out of money to buy food or pay for items for the children. There is also no ability for joint accounts to be linked to the card. Individuals have been unable to buy second-hand goods due to a lack of cash, which is particularly disruptive for people on low incomes. We know that, in so many cases, people on Newstart and other income support payments are already living below the poverty line and that they rely on second-hand goods to get by. They cannot afford to buy all the second-hand goods that they need with the 20 per cent that remains under their full control.

The government says the card will help people, but, in reality, it is making their lives more difficult and making it harder for those on low incomes to manage their limited resources. It is entrenching poverty. People speak very strongly of the humiliating experience of feeling stigmatised when they're standing in a shop having to use the card. Without cash, parents have reported not being able to buy second-hand textbooks for their children, families have not been able to shop at the many op shops that don't have EFTPOS facilities, and people have reported not being able to afford to buy their children canteen lunches. Some individuals have also found it impossible to pay their rent. We also know that some people left their communities when they heard that their area might be a trial site. This is particularly devastating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and those in remote locations. First Nations people should not have to choose between living on country and having proper access to income support.

I received an email in July from a constituent living in one of the trial sites. She is a mother with two children and is a trial participant. She escaped domestic violence twice. She told me in great detail about the problems that she has had in being able to budget and survive in her particular circumstances. She talked about how she is not able to buy second-hand clothes through the internet now. She talked about having to choose between buying clothes for her children and giving them a treat. She said that the stress over the last year, and especially the last few months, would be enough to make the strongest person break: 'I have come so close to breaking point, and I feel personally attacked by this card. Strangers in shops judge me like a criminal. Other kids and parents judge my son when he has to buy his school lunch with 5c, 10c and 20c pieces.' This is not an isolated email. This is not an isolated example of the stigmatisation that people feel and the despair that people feel. This is one of many emails I've received from participants over the years. I find the emails heart-wrenching, and I know that we can and should be doing better for these individuals who are being put through this.

Today we have an opportunity to put a stop to this card, and the stress and the shame and the harm it is causing participants in the East Kimberley, Ceduna and Goldfields areas. These communities have been through enough of this social experiment. We've been doing this 'experimental' trial with income management for 11 years. For 11 years, we have been harming people with this approach. It can't be properly demonstrated that social harm has been reduced, and the evidence to support the continuation of these trials does not exist. We've had enough. We don't need to keep putting these people through this harm.

I urge members of the Senate, the opposition and the crossbench—in fairyland, I can imagine the government would actually look at the evidence and see that this causes social harm, and drop their ideological support for this failed social experiment that causes harm to our fellow Australians and, particularly, to First Nations people—let's learn the lessons from the intervention. Let's learn the lessons from this trial, and from the trials that have already happened. Seriously, how many of those in the government and the opposition have read the ANAO report? And what about the other reports that have been done on the flawed ORIMA evaluations, showing that this has not reduced social harm? In fact, it's caused harm to many people. They have reported that. I'm sure others have had emails, too, about how distressing people are finding this. Let's invest in addressing the social harms—because I acknowledge that we do need to be addressing issues like addiction, intergenerational trauma, entrenched poverty, and disadvantage. But this isn't the way to do it. It hasn't been proved that it has worked. The ANAO report shows that the government can't demonstrate a reduction in social harm; but I can demonstrate the harm, the stigma, and the humiliation that people have felt through this card. Please support this disallowance motion, and let's invest the money we're wasting on this into genuinely helping people.

5:47 pm

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

Labor is greatly concerned about the lack of robust evidence about the outcomes of the Cashless Debit Card trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley. The definition of a 'trial' is to find out if something works. It's a terrible indictment of the policy process of this government that clear, empirical evidence about outcomes simply does not exist. Evaluations to date have been completely inadequate. The government must fix this.

In our consultations in the two original trial areas of Ceduna and East Kimberley, Labor heard mixed views about the success of the Cashless Debit Card. Some participants in the Ceduna and East Kimberley trials reported finding the Cashless Debit Card to be useful, whilst others thought it had not made any improvements to their lives. Labor supported the initiation of trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley, and supports them continuing for a further year to allow more time to reliably determine whether they have been successful.

For this reason, we will not be supporting this disallowance motion today, but Labor will be moving an alternative disallowance motion to prevent the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card Trial to the Goldfields region. But the government is very much on notice. They must fix their evaluation process and heed the very significant warnings of the Auditor-General about the implementation and evaluation of the trials. Labor would require a much more rigorous evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card in the existing trial areas prior to supporting either the continuation of these trials past mid-2019 or any expansion to the trial areas.

I have to say, for a government to say that this is about improving people's lives when in 2014 they took half a billion dollars in the budget from Indigenous social support and they have removed $1.5 billion over four years from remote Indigenous housing—this has got implications for apprentices in these areas. It's got implications for Indigenous businesses because, if you can't get a roof over your head, then you're in some difficulty. If you're in massively overcrowded accommodation, you end up in severe difficulties. It's got implications for health. It's got implications for employment opportunities. Simply having the cashless debit card as some kind of analysis about how to try and make things better demonstrates this government's lack of vision.

We don't support the expansion of the cashless debit card in any location unless the government has an agreed and formal process of consultation and a clear framework for establishing whether the communities consent to the trial. Surely there has to be a process of consultation and consent from the communities. So, on this basis, we don't support this, but we will be moving an alternative proposition on the trial of the cashless welfare arrangements.

5:51 pm

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this disallowance motion. Before I start stepping through some information on what the intent of both the bills and the regulations is, I just want to address a couple of issues. First of all, on the government side of this chamber, we don't believe the outcomes of these trials will be magic. We don't believe they'll be magical, Senator Siewert—through you, Deputy President. We believe they're trials—exactly what we say they are. We believe they're a chance, in a very intractable area of public policy, to try something different. I'll get into it in more detail later on, but I would also say to Senator Cameron that, as part of the new bill, we have improved and increased the amount of information we are seeking to gain from these trials and to actually feed that into the process. And I think you're aware of that fact. It is something that the government is committed to, because these are trials. We are trying to see what works and what doesn't.

I arrived in this place just a few days over one year ago. One of the first things I did as chair of a community affairs committee was to take a committee hearing to Kalgoorlie on this very topic, and we heard from a lot of leaders in the community up there. Yes, there were clearly views on both sides of the debate. There were clearly those in favour; there were clearly those against. Some of those who were against have subsequently changed their minds. Perhaps there have been others who have gone the other way. I've certainly only heard from those who were against but who are now in favour. I'm thinking particularly of an Indigenous leader who I talked to about this issue. But the point is that the idea that there hasn't been consultation either in the existing trial sites or in the proposed trial site in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region is simply false. I'll go through some of the consultation that has gone on. Probably the one I know most about is that my good friend Rick Wilson, the member for O'Connor, wrote to all 20,000 households in the Kalgoorlie trial site and asked their opinion, and he got an extraordinarily good response both in terms of numbers and in terms of those supporting the trial—somewhere in the order of 83 per cent. I'm not sure what mechanism Senator Cameron is proposing in order to gauge community views on these trials, but I would have thought that's a pretty good measure of support.

Let me go through what we are actually trying to do. The government is committed to reducing the social harm caused by alcohol, drug abuse and gambling, particularly in areas of high welfare dependency. That's an objective that I think everyone in this place would share. The cashless debit card does operate like an ordinary debit card but aims to reduce the effects of alcohol, drugs and gambling abuse by limiting both the availability of cash and the items that can be purchased. There are three existing trial sites—Ceduna, East Kimberley and the Goldfields, most recently—which, I will point out, were agreed to by this place. The Parliament of Australia agreed to these trial sites. There is now a move to try and somehow undermine them or, as Senator Cameron flagged, to limit the Kalgoorlie trial site. And the Greens, including Senator Siewert, very clearly oppose all the trials. But this parliament has put in place three trial sites, and those three trial sites should continue. We have another bill coming before this place which seeks to establish a fourth trial site in the Bundaberg-Hervey Bay area.

There has been anecdotal evidence that we've seen positive impacts in the community. I agree: that's anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is worthy, but it certainly shouldn't inform future public policy decisions whilst we consider the fourth trial site. The fourth trial site will operate in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay until 30 June 2020. This allows time to roll out the program in the area and for it to operate for a minimum of 12 months. We will need to update the limitation on the number of participants from 10,000 to 15,000, recognising the increase that would come from introducing the fourth trial site. Bundaberg-Hervey Bay will be different from the existing trial sites in terms of its criteria. The trial will target people under 36 years of age who are receiving Newstart, youth allowance (jobseeker), parenting payment (single) or parenting payment (partnered). Around 6,700 people would be transitioned onto the cashless debit card. It does represent a different approach and would be more targeted than the Ceduna trial in South Australia and the East Kimberley and Goldfields trials in WA. If passed, it would be the largest trial site.

The expansion of the cashless debit card, under these criteria, allows testing under a different set of criteria in a different context—in particular, in a much larger urban population and, obviously, involving a very different potential cohort of people. One of the criticisms of the initial trial sites concerned the relatively large Indigenous populations. I will point out that the Kalgoorlie trial had around a fifty-fifty split in terms of Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants. In Hervey Bay-Bundaberg, there is a predominantly non-Indigenous population. One of the other differences compared with the existing trial sites is that the selection of trial participants in Bundaberg-Hervey Bay will not allow for volunteers to come onto the cashless debit card. Again, this will allow the government to test the impacts of the cashless debit card trial exclusively for the selected group, as has been asked for by the community. The criteria for trial participants also set out some exceptions where a person would not be transitioned onto the card, drawing on policy parameters used in the existing sites. This includes a provision for the secretary to exempt a person whose inclusion in the trial would impose a serious risk to the person's mental, physical or emotional wellbeing. These exemptions and discretionary powers will be used to ensure vulnerable people are not adversely affected by the trial.

The selection of the cohort in this area has occurred as a result of significant consultation with the community, as we heard during the Senate committee inquiry into the legislation. This is designed to help address key social problems that local people have identified during meetings—in particular, high youth unemployment, intergenerational welfare dependency and local children whose needs are not being met. According to regional youth unemployment data for March 2018, these communities have a youth unemployment rate of 28.7 per cent, a significant increase over the past year. It compares to a state average of 13.4 per cent. Bundaberg and Hervey Bay have a high level of long-term and intergenerational welfare dependency. Children born to parents who are welfare dependent are more likely to become welfare dependent themselves. Ninety per cent of the people in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay who are under 30 and on Newstart or youth allowance had a parent or guardian who received income support at some point in the past 15 years. Of that cohort, around 13 per cent had a parent or guardian who received income support at least once each year for the past 15 years.

The findings of the ARC indicate that the risk factors such as attitudes to work and welfare, attitudes towards alcohol and drug consumption, and family influences contribute to intergenerational welfare dependency. The council also found evidence that young people from welfare-dependent families are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol or consume illegal drugs, highlighting the relationship that welfare dependence has on a young person's outcomes in life. On average, across Australia 46 per cent of people attending government funded financial counselling for their problem gambling were also receiving a taxpayer-funded benefit. In the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area it is 73 per cent. Additionally, people in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area attending financial counselling for their problem gambling are more likely to have been on their current benefit for longer than five years, compared with other people in Australia attending problem gambling counselling.

The cashless debit card could help stabilise the lives of young people in the area by limiting spending on alcohol, drugs and gambling, thus improving their chances of finding employment or successfully completing educational training. By targeting a younger cohort we can influence positive behavioural change before welfare dependency becomes entrenched in a person's lifestyle. We've seen that a spillover benefit of the card is that it can increase motivation to find work. As part of the final evaluation report there was feedback from some card participants that almost a quarter of the people on the card are spending several hours a week looking for work. This is an increase from 11 per cent in February 2017.

The Department of Social Services has undertaken significant consultation with key stakeholders and community members. Specifically, between May and December of 2017 over 188 meetings, including three community information sessions, were held across the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area. A community reference group was established in late 2017 to work through local policy and implementation issues to ensure that the cashless debit card is implemented effectively in their community. Additionally, a local shopfront will be established with staff who can link people with existing services. Through the community reference group the department will monitor service demand to ensure that the cashless debit card is complemented by appropriate supports as people adjust to the change.

Complementing the card will be a further investment of $1 million in community services. There is already a significant number of services in place, including 70 federally funded services across the area, including drug and alcohol services, financial capability services, employment services, and family and children's programs. The bill will allow the program to respond to unforeseen circumstances, such as widescale power outages and natural disasters, allowing trial participants in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay to access their full payment as cash. This measure will ensure that participants and their families remain supported in the event of widescale emergencies. The bill will also allow the establishment of a community panel in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area to allow participants in the area to apply to have access to a higher proportion of unrestricted funds. Consultations with community leaders in the area have indicated that a panel will be useful to make the trial flexible to the needs of their community.

As I stated earlier, government has announced a second evaluation of the cashless debit card across all three current trial sites to assess the ongoing effectiveness of the program. My understanding is that the University of South Australia has already begun collecting baseline data for that second evaluation, and it will use research methodologies developed independently by the University of Queensland and drawing on those baseline measurements of social conditions in the Goldfields as developed by the University of Adelaide. Findings from the second evaluations will be published in late 2019.

Obviously in order for us to have a meaningful outcome of that evaluation we'll need to see all three existing trial sites continue to run. Ideally we will see, with the support of this place, the new trial site in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay allowed to proceed through its complete trial. That way we will get a good understanding of what works and what doesn't and what the impacts are.

Other changes that will come will include strengthening of provisions that will enable merchants to block the sale of restricted goods to trial participants at the point of sale. Merchants in trial sites will be more readily able to service participants of the program through the option to implement product-level blocking solutions, automatically blocking transactions where a participant is attempting to purchase restricted goods with the card. In doing so, the future bill will also clarify restrictions on cash-like products such as gift cards, vouchers, money orders or digital currency where these could be used to purchase alcohol or gambling products. These products are included as restricted goods, as has always been the intention of the program. Clarifications and changes such as these allow the trials to be more meaningful moving forward. We need to be able to, as I've said, see what works, see what doesn't work, change what doesn't work and try again.

Consultation in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area demonstrates that people want a way of breaking the cycle of welfare dependency, and this is certainly what I heard in my time in Kalgoorlie. Everybody I spoke to, including the ministers responsible both previously and currently, understands that this is no silver bullet. People in these communities understand it is no silver bullet. What it is is a trial. It's a trial to see whether this approach can have a positive outcome on these communities, not in five minutes but over time. It is vital that all the current sites are allowed to run through to conclusion and that they're not disrupted by this disallowance motion or any future disallowance motion, as flagged by Senator Cameron. We need to allow these trials to operate, we need to evaluate them properly and then we need to make a decision about the way forward. Thank you.

6:06 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I will just sum up. I'm a bit concerned about the argument that we're somehow trying to overturn a decision of the Senate and that's not the appropriate thing to do. These are disallowable instruments that are tabled so that the Senate can have a voice, and that's what the Senate is doing: it's having a voice. I, for one, am having a voice to say that the evidence is not there to show that these trials work. My take is that the evidence is there that it has caused social harm, because I've been speaking to people about the harm that it has caused them, and you can't say that the harm that people have expressed through their emails is not real, whereas the government can't point to the evidence to show that social harm has been reduced. That's what the ANAO report says.

There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that the government relies on, but likewise there's a lot of anecdotal evidence, from what people are saying, that they feel the trial has not been successful and of the harm it's caused. When people sit in a meeting in tears because they feel humiliated by having to pull out the Indue card when they go to pay for their shopping in the supermarket, that is real evidence. That is somebody's real evidence of their feeling of humiliation.

As for the card working like any debit card, whenever I've bought anything on the internet, I've never had to turn up at the Indue office to ask them if I can use my card to buy something on the internet, which is what has happened to participants in Kalgoorlie. They were on a disability support pension. They wanted to buy a piece of medical equipment. They could not buy it on the internet. You couldn't purchase it in Kalgoorlie, so they had to turn up and line up at the Indue office, or the agency that's dealing with the Indue card, to ask them to turn on their capacity to use that card. That is not a normal debit card. It's certainly not the normal definition of a debit card that any of my friends or family use. When they go to buy something on the internet, they don't have to get anybody's permission to do that. That is what people have to do when they are living on the card. They talk about being called druggies. They talk about people being stigmatised because they're on the card. That is not normal. I don't feel that when I use my credit card. Most other people don't feel that when they use their credit or debit card.

The opposition raised their concerns about the lack of robust evidence. I wish they were concerned enough about that to actually support this disallowance. They talk about the lack of clear empirical evidence and the evaluation being inadequate. That is what the ANAO report has found. It found that the evidence isn't there to show that there has been a reduction in social harm. They talk about some participants who find it useful. In that case, they can opt in to income management that's voluntary. I'm not going to traverse all of the history of the Northern Territory intervention, other than to say that there was a volunteer system by Tangentyere Council where people could opt in; when the intervention was introduced, they overrode that scheme. We don't think that the evidence is there to justify the further continuation of these trials. We don't think that the people in these trial areas should be subjected to a further 12 months of their lives, or any more time, on the card.

There were claims of consultation. When I was talking to people in Kalgoorlie, they talked about information sessions that told you what the card does, but people weren't asked for their opinions. This was for people who were actually living on income support payments. Their views were not canvassed about whether they would support this. In Wide Bay, which is in Hinkler, people told me the same thing. They came to the public consultation process that I held, and it was the first time they felt that they had been asked, appropriately, about whether they supported the cashless debit card being rolled out in the Wide Bay area of Hinkler. We also heard again that there were information sessions, but people felt like they weren't asked for their opinion about whether the card should be rolled out. That is what happened in Ceduna. It wasn't until after the legislation passed here that they actually held a public meeting in Ceduna—because the government were forced to. There was not a public meeting held in the Kimberley.

I've articulated time and time again in this place the concerns that people hold about this card and the concerns that people hold about compulsory income management and its ineffectiveness. The evidence for it isn't there. I'm asking you again: look at the harm this is causing to people and listen to them. The evidence isn't there to support the government's contention that this is lowering social harm. It is causing harm to people. I urge you to support this disallowance. I urge the opposition to say enough is enough in these trial areas. It is causing community division. The services that were promised aren't being adequately provided.

People are suffering under this card. They are, admittedly, being very creative about the way they are getting around the card, and I'm not about to tell you any of the new ways they do that that I found out about. The amount of stigma and humiliation that this is causing to people does not justify this card. The social harm has not been reduced. It is causing harm. Even people in the flawed evaluation are saying that it's causing harm.

Please support this disallowance. Let's end this and start reinvesting the resources that are being wasted on compulsory income management. Let's say 'enough is enough' to our flawed approach to social justice and ensure that our social safety net is genuinely supporting people in need in this country. We have wasted too much time, money and energy on this approach. It's time to rethink it. It's time to scrap this and to reinvest that money in things that actually work. Please support this disallowance.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that business of the Senate notice of motion No. 2, standing in the name of Senator Siewert, be agreed to.