Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020; In Committee
This amendment seeks to make the transition from the income management scheme in the Northern Territory, from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card, a voluntary scheme. It will allow those people who are currently on the BasicsCard in the Northern Territory who wish to transition to the cashless debit card to do so as a voluntary scheme. If they choose to remain on the BasicsCard they will also be able to do that.
The reason that the government has chosen to proceed with this is because we believe that when people in the Northern Territory are given the option of the advanced technology that is provided by the cashless debit card that they will actually choose to take up this technology. In a sign of commitment to this and the belief that this technology has improved, we are happy for the people—
Honourable senators interjecting—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: I'm sorry, Minister, please resume your seat. If I can't hear the minister then I'm sure others can't as well. Can we have some order, please?
We firmly believe that the cashless debit card will enable participants to have the opportunity to choose the enhanced functionality and the increased flexibility that is offered by the cashless debit card. That is on the basis that currently the income management system of the BasicsCard allows participants to be able to transact at around only 16,000 terminals, whereas the cashless debit card provides them with the opportunity to make transactions at over 900,000 terminals around Australia. It enables them to use online purchasing. In fact, they can use their card wherever an EFTPOS terminal exists, and the only things that they will be restricted from being able to get access to when using this particular card will be alcohol, gambling products, some gift cards and cash.
I rise to indicate that the opposition will not be supportive of the government's amendments on sheet TK264—which involve two parts, I think. I just want to take issue with one of the things the minister said, because she asserted that this would somehow make this all voluntary. Well, it won't. The amendment will effectively make it a Hobson's choice between a grey card and a green card. So Labor isn't supporting the government's amendment, because it isn't making income management voluntary. What it is doing is simply providing a choice of a different coloured piece of plastic. So, for the reasons that were well ventilated in the second reading debate, we do not support the government's amendments on TK264.
The BasicsCard is an ongoing measure. It is legislated as an ongoing measure. It has an instrument, and I'm actually holding the existing instrument in my hand. I will just take the opportunity whilst I'm answering your question to say that I was a tiny bit disappointed at Senator Wong's accusation that somehow this is entirely a choice between a silver card and a green card, as if the government's going out there and saying, 'You can have a silver card or a green card.' I remind those in this place that there was a bipartisan approach to this and in fact the instrument that you're referring to, Senator Lambie, was actually signed by a member from the other place, Mrs Macklin, when she was the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Minister for Disability Reform. So, we would continue—this is the instrument as it relates to the Northern Territory—
Honourable senators interjecting—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Order! I can't hear the minister.
I just wanted to put on the record that that was the instrument that was signed by Mrs Macklin back at that time.
Senator Lambie, the instrument has a 10-year life. It was signed in 2012. A disallowable instrument will be introduced into this place in 2022 at the expiry of that 10-year period for this place to vote on again. But the measure, of itself, is an ongoing measure.
Let me get this right: does the cashless debit card itself include that it is on a two-year trial in the Northern Territory as well? Are you going to swap that straight over, and is it going to have an instrument? I know it's only got two years. So I'm asking you: if they move over to the cashless debit card in the Northern Territory, does that get two years as well? If that's the case, I'm going to encourage them to get over to it now, because it's not going to survive after the two years. That's what I want to know.
The same situation exists whether it be the BasicsCard or the cashless debit card. We haven't actually moved the amendment as yet in relation to the two-year time limit on the cashless debit card. That is the next amendment. But, for the purposes of effect, the cashless debit card or the BasicsCard will still be affected by the same instrument as I just described, which is a disallowable instrument that will be brought into this place in 2022.
So let me get this right: the CDC is ongoing in the Northern Territory, but it's on trial everywhere else in the country—correct? So, in those trial sites, it'll be on trial for a further two years but, in the Northern Territory, the CDC will be ongoing?
Senator Lambie, the CDC extension that we're seeking to bring into effect by this legislation today, subject, obviously, to the passage of the amendment that's coming up next, will be a two-year measure. If, at the end of that two years, the decision is not to continue with the cashless debit card, the people in the Northern Territory will remain on income management because it's an ongoing measure, unless this parliament chooses at that time to disallow the instrument. In disallowing the instrument, obviously there would be other impacts of that.
Senator Lambie, as I explained earlier, the extension to the cashless debit card that we're seeking to make with the next amendment that will be put before the chamber is for a two-year extension on the cashless debit card. Income management, as it exists in the Northern Territory, has a number of measures that are contained within the instrument that currently oversees or encompasses income management. This instrument to which you refer applies to some of them. Some of the other measures are actually not encompassed by this particular measure. The ongoing measure of income management in the Northern Territory is subject to other legislation. What we are seeking to do today is to give the people in the Northern Territory the opportunity to be able to use a different technology. The income management that they are operating under remains the same. It's just that they will be able to use a different technology. It doesn't actually change the income management. Everything that applies to the existing BasicsCard income management legislation remains in place, as it was yesterday.
So let's be clear here. The government just won the second reading vote here because Centre Alliance didn't turn up. I'm naming it. Centre Alliance did not turn up for the vote, folks. For those people listening to this debate—and I know there are many of them—we could have ended this five minutes ago with that vote. Centre Alliance didn't even have the guts to come in here and vote with the government; they just did not turn up. So why is the government circulating these amendments? It is because you've done a deal with Centre Alliance, haven't you? That's because you know that you won't win on the third vote unless you make these amendments—which, make no mistake, keep the cashless debit card running. All those people listening tonight, thinking they were going to be off this card because Centre Alliance had said they didn't support it, are now hugely disappointed. And the person who made that decision didn't even have the guts to turn up here and face this Senate. So why, Minister, are you moving these amendments? Please name it.
Before I respond to Senator Siewert's question, I also table the two supplementary explanatory memoranda relating to the amendments that I'm currently in the process of moving. Senator Siewert, I acknowledge your position on this measure and I respect your position on this measure. The reason the government has sought to move these two amendments, I would have thought was fairly obvious. We absolutely stand by the belief that the people of the Northern Territory, when given the choice as to whether to change the technology—and that really all it is, Senator Siewert, and I think you acknowledge it is nothing more than a change in the technology—will see the benefit. I can tell you from firsthand experience: I spent a number of days in the Northern Territory earlier this year and I went out to communities and I spoke to a lot of people who were on the BasicsCard. I sat with them and I explained to them the differences between the BasicsCard and the CDC, and almost without exception the people I was speaking to said, 'I would rather have the CDC than the BasicsCard.' This is not a debate about whether you have income management or not. It is merely a technology upgrade, and that is what this measure seeks to do, Senator Siewert.
The people of the Northern Territory were very clear. This morning, in my contribution to the second reading debate, I read out a letter that had been sent to Senator Patrick and the crossbenchers. That letter made it very clear that Aboriginal organisations, who represent thousands of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, did not support the cashless debit card. They don't support compulsory income management. In fact, some organisations in the Northern Territory that originally supported compulsory income management have changed their position. Why are you not only bringing government amendments that change the conversion to the cashless debit card in the Northern Territory to a voluntary position but also—and I've got to say, of course, I voted to get rid of the cashless debit card with that vote on permanency—suddenly changing your mind about permanency? Name it up.
In relation to your comments around the amendment before the chair—the Northern Territory voluntary opportunity to move from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card—I want to be really clear. The amendment that is before the chair is for the opportunity for people in the Northern Territory who are currently on the BasicsCard to move to the CDC. It is nothing more and nothing less than that. In relation to the two-year time frame that we've put on the extension of the existing sites—or with all of the CDC technology, the four existing trial sites, as well as Cape York—I think there have been a lot of contributions in this place, where people have expressed extreme disappointment that there is not strong empirical data, that there's not quantitative data. Much of the data that we have is qualitative, and some of it is even anecdotal. That's why I spent the time going out and actually speaking to people in communities and asking them what they thought.
I did name some of them; I'll take that interjection. In fact, if the senator would like to refer back to my second reading speech, I actually named a number of people who've written to me today from communities asking me for the continuation of the cashless debit card.
I did name them in my second reading speech, Senator Thorpe, and you're welcome to look at that. As I said, I acknowledge we do not have the kind of strong data—and I was frustrated, as you are, that we don't have the kind of data. I do have very strong data that you would refer to as qualitative. For that reason, the government has listened to what has been said in this chamber, and we said, okay, during the next two years—
Senator Siewert interjecting—
Senator Siewert, we will continue with the existing scheme, and during that time we will put in place an evaluation process. I'll give the commitment to this chamber that the evaluation process and the outcomes of that will be released prior to any decision being requested. If this government happens to be here when the time expires that will be released before the legislation is brought to this chamber.
Senator Siewert, the deal that I did on this legislation was with the people I spoke to who asked me to continue this—the people of Ceduna who told me that their communities were better, safer, stronger and were moving forward because of this card and a number of other measures. I said this in my second reading speech and I will reiterate it: this is not a silver bullet; it is one of a suite of measures that we are working on with communities to assist them in their desire to be able to make improvements in their communities. These communities have asked the government to assist them with these measures.
Senator Thorpe interjecting—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Order! Senator Thorpe, I'd ask you to extend to other members of the chamber the courtesy they extend to you, please. Senator Lambie.
Thank you. I actually don't agree with you over the BasicsCard, and the reason I don't is that I've spent quite a bit of time in Arnhem Land. I was quite disappointed. I would have thought that, after nearly 10 years of being on that card, they would accept it. They were quite resistant to it and they were not interested in going to a new card. I guess these people have another five years ahead of them at the main trial site, in Ceduna. If things are working in the community, it's not because of the damn card; it's because the community is making it work. It was hit-and-miss up there as well. Through the chair, I have a feeling that you may want to get up and say a few things. There are things that haven't been delivered and that card could have done so much better and delivered so much more, but you put them on that BasicsCard and you forgot about them. This is the same pattern of behaviour that I am seeing with the CDC, the cashless debit card. If that's anything to go on and that's the most success we can admit to in 10 years, it really hasn't had much of a bite. Some of the guys are in dry camps, and that's great. The community has done that, not the card.
You can keep on the road you are travelling with that cashless debit card all you like, but, unless you put in effort, it's going to end up like that and you won't get the results. There are no more jobs than there were eight or nine years ago. They're still struggling to understand even the basics of the card. If someone else wants to get up and say something more about that, that's fine. What I would like to know, though, is this. We have the Northern Territory Credit Union. When does that start getting involved? It's obviously going to have to pick up the cashless debit card. Has that deal been done? Is that ready to go?
Thank you very much, Senator Lambie. I can advise that we have signed an agreement with the Traditional Credit Union in the Northern Territory to start working on the pathway for them to be an issuer of the card.
This matter has been discussed with a number of organisations, Senator McCarthy, but I'm going to have to take your question on notice in order to provide you with the exact ones. I was actually just asking for the list of people I've consulted. As soon as I have it, I'll put it on the record.
You've just brought in this amendment now, and we have been working on your legislation since it was introduced into the House. It went through the House and came to the Senate. You must have spoken to those organisations in the last two hours. Surely you would know who you've spoken to in order to bring this amendment in so late—now.
My consultations in relation to this particular legislation have been ongoing for over a year. I have listened to what people have had to say and I have listened to what you and others have said in this place. My decision to seek to make this amendment was on the basis of wideranging discussions that I've had. I must admit, I'm somewhat surprised that, after listening to the contributions that have been made by those opposite, you appear not to be supportive of the proposal that's before the chair.
I'm not sure how you could be surprised about my position, Minister, given all the statements I've made in the Senate on it. You've now said that you're bringing in an amendment to make going from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card voluntary whereas earlier today it was about completely moving everyone, over 22,000 people, directly to the cashless debit card. You used the term 'voluntary', but, if we all look at the definition of 'voluntary', it is about choice. People who are on income management in the Northern Territory are not there by choice. There is no 'voluntary' here. So who did you speak to in the last hour or two in order to bring this amendment in around what you perceive as being a voluntary movement from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card?
I think I've already answered that question. The voluntary nature of this amendment is, as you rightly point out, a voluntary decision to move from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card. That is the only thing that I was referring to when I was referring to it being voluntary.
I'll shed some light on that for you, if you like, so you know the truth. That was discussed last night with Centre Alliance, and that is where that has come from. I'll be honest, because I'm not going to sit here and lie to the Australian people. It's shameful that you're doing that over something like this. Be honest. You haven't gone out and consulted about this, and yet I understand you want all of the Northern Territory to be on it. You didn't get away with that. You did the deal with Centre Alliance so people could be given an option. Good on Centre Alliance for at least lowering it to that scale, not making them all go on it. But that's exactly how it went down just over 24 hours ago. I'm not going to sit here and—I'm sorry. I'm not doing this.
I have a couple of questions that arise out of the amendment. As I understand the amendment and the minister's explanation of it, it actually envisages a parallel system in the Northern Territory for both the cashless debit card and the BasicsCard. Given the minister's comments about the additional costs of the BasicsCard—per year, from memory—I wonder if she can indicate to us the forward estimate cost of the dual system that is contemplated by the amendment.
That's not correct. I'm sorry; you can't give her that advice. It may well be subject to commercial negotiations. There is a cost provision, which has to have been made, associated with the bill and the amendment. I'm asking what the cost provision is. I'm not asking for the terms of the tender.
So not only do we have an amendment that the minister won't front up to the Senate about in terms of how it has arisen or when it was negotiated or the fact that she doesn't appear to have consulted with people about it outside of this place, but she also won't tell us what it costs. That's pretty good! Do we have any estimate about the number of people that you are assuming will transition to the cashless debit card?
As I said in my second reading speech, the government is committed to providing the people on the BasicsCard with some advanced technology. We certainly believe that the majority of them—in fact the 25,000 people that are currently using the BasicsCard—we believe that the appropriate consultation and support to people to give them the information that they need to understand the increased functionality of this particular card—we believe that the majority of those 25,000 people will transition across to the card.
Sorry, I think at the end of that—
Senator Ayres interjecting—
I was trying to be more polite than that, Senator Ayres, thank you—long explanation involving a lot of words, there was a fact. You said that you anticipate that the majority of the 25,000 people currently on the BasicsCard would transition to the CDC. Is that what you said, Minister?
I have a message from those people in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg. They would like to know why those in the Northern Territory are only going to be on 50-50 on the CDC while they're on 80-20. They would like to look at legal proceedings around that because they believe that they're being discriminated against. Can you tell me whether or not you've had any legal advice in relation to the splitting of the cards?
In the broad consultation that has been undertaken with the people of the Northern Territory, it was very clear that they wished to transition. If they were to transition, they wanted to go across at the same rate that they were currently on on the BasicsCard. In effect, the existing BasicsCard legislation would be replaced almost in its entirety if they choose to transition over to the CDC.
The Northern Territory is on 50-50, and then you've got the larger white population in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg on 80-20. You don't think that this is starting to divide the country? Once again, have you had legal advice, because you've got one lot on 50-50 and you've got the other lot on 80-20? I'm asking you: before this is taken to court—which no doubt it will be—have you had legal advice on whether this is discriminatory?
The whites in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg are telling me they've got a sniff of this. What you're doing is creating a greater divide here. That's what I'm trying to tell you. You're going to have 50-50 in the Northern Territory—I'm not being racist, and I'm not telling you anything else; I'm simply telling you how they're feeling over there right now, just like I would with the people in the Northern Territory. They are feeling like they're being discriminated against because they're on 80-20 and the ones going on the CDC in the Northern Territory will be on 50-50. I'm just asking if you've had any legal advice on that.
Do the provisions in the current bill that give the minister the power to change it from fifty-fifty to another figure remain, or are they taken out with these amendments if somebody transfers voluntarily onto the cashless debit card?
It's about the provisions in the current bill, which give the minister the ability to change the fifty-fifty split. The original legislation said that when people moved from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card the fifty-fifty would generally remain. But under the new bill the minister would have the power to change that under certain circumstances. Does that remain or is that being taken away with these amendments?
The existing provisions in the legislation which governs income management with the BasicsCard will not change. What we're seeking to do here is merely to enable those people who are currently on the BasicsCard to have a CDC instead of a BasicsCard. All other provisions that exist in the legislation are the same.
It's a simultaneous process. But I would also note that the CDC offers the opportunity for somebody who is on a particular rate of income management to choose to have a higher rate of their income quarantined. It makes that possible.
I'd like to go back to my question, and perhaps you misunderstood me or I didn't make the denominator clear. I was actually asking about the proportion and number of people on income management in the Northern Territory who are First Nations people.
There are 25,000 people in the Northern Territory who are on income management, and I've just been advised that 81 per cent of those are Indigenous. I think that 34 per cent of Australians who are on income management across the whole of Australia are Indigenous, but that includes all income management and not just the cashless debit card.
Can the minister explain how, when 81 per cent of 25,000 people who are currently on income management are First Nations people, she can argue that this card is not racially discriminatory?
Income management is not designed for a particular people. It is designed for a specific purpose. In different parts of the country, and under different regimes, different people have been put on a form of income management. Some of them are on the BasicsCard and some have been on CDC, and there is a range of reasons people go onto income management. But it is not racially specific.
But the effect of it is! It falls differently on Australians, depending on their race—certainly in the Northern Territory. What percentage of people currently on the CDC in Ceduna are First Nations people?
In the interest of completeness, in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area 18 per cent of the people on the card are Indigenous, in the Goldfields 48 per cent of the people on the card are Indigenous, in the East Kimberley 82 per cent of the people on the card are Indigenous and in Ceduna 76 per cent of people on the card are Indigenous, making a total on average across those four sites of 40 per cent of the people that are on the cashless debit card are Indigenous.
My understanding is that the percentage of the population in Australia that is Indigenous is around two per cent. However, I would like to put on the record that in the case of the Ceduna community—I think I included this in my second reading speech—the reason that we have the cashless debit card is that the people that actually developed the cashless debit card in Ceduna did so as a result of the coronial inquest into the sleeping rough inquiry that occurred on the back of six tragic deaths in their community because of people sleeping rough because of alcohol and drug related harm that people were doing to themselves. It was actually the Indigenous community leaders of the communities around the Ceduna area that sought for this card to be introduced in their community.
I think the figures speak for themselves. I'm conscious that others have questions. Across the population you have two to three per cent who identify as First Nations. Eighty-one per cent of those on income management in the Northern Territory are First Nations. It's 76 per cent in Ceduna and it's 82 per cent in the East Kimberley. Even in the Goldfields, which is substantially lower, it's 48 per cent. It's a card that disproportionately is targeted at First Australians.
The community self-selected. The cashless debit card trial sites in the four areas that we have been discussing were put in place at the request of the community leaders in each of these communities.
Minister, why isn't this racist?
The CHAIR: Senator Lambie?
Do I get an answer?
The CHAIR: The minister is not obliged to answer questions. Please resume your seat, because I've given the call to Senator Lambie, unless she wants to cede it back to you.
What evidence do you have, Minister, that this is not racist? Can I ask that question? Am I allowed to ask that question?
The CHAIR: Senator Thorpe, you can ask whatever question you like and the minister can choose to answer or not answer.
Great. Minister, please tell me: why is this not racist? I just need an explanation for the Aboriginal people watching across this country. They want to know why this is not racist. Can you please answer. Please.
Thank you, Senator Thorpe. Can I first apologise. You were so quick on the question I didn't get to answer. I didn't realise you'd asked a question, so I apologise. I was not being rude or disrespectful to your question. The card is not designed on the basis of race. It's designed on the basis of need as identified by communities around Australia who have come forward and sought for the card to be introduced into their communities.
I have veterans in some of these trial sites, and because DVA takes years to do their payments they're sitting on disability support pensions. Could you please tell me that there are absolutely none of them who, because of the situation they're in while they're fighting DVA, are on the CDC card?
I didn't ask you about Veterans' Affairs cards, because we already know about Veterans' Affairs, that their payments can be two or three years and they have to go on a disability support pension from Centrelink to cover that in the meantime. So, to me, there will be some of them who will be stuck on this card while they are fighting the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and sometimes that can take five or six years. They are veterans waiting for their claims to get through. I can tell you now there are some of these who are not going to be able to avoid this. Do you intend to do anything about this? I'm quite sure this has just been brought to your attention, but that is the truth of the matter. They have been serving their country. These claims are taking so long, the support they're getting is from Centrelink—they're getting disability support pensions. Are they going to be put on the card or are you going to give them an exemption? How are you going to exempt them?
There are a number of people who are on disability support pensions who are affected by the cashless debit card. It was actually one of the design features that were sought by the leaders when they designed the card, because they believed that there were a number of their more vulnerable community members who were on disability support pension who they wanted to have the benefit of the card. That is why the disability support pension was included in some of the sites. In relation to your comments around veterans who are in the process of making application for a Veterans' Affairs pension, there are two ways that they can exit from the card. One is around financial wellbeing and the other one is a demonstration of being able to adequately manage their affairs. However, if you have a particular example of somebody who is in the situation to which you refer that you would like the government to have a look at, I will be more than happy to take that on on your behalf.
Senator Lambie, I apologise. I'm going to have to take that on notice. I will try and get it to you before the final reading tonight, but I will certainly get that information for you.
You have veterans receiving part-payment disability pension for whatever reason from Centrelink and receiving payment from DVA. Where does it leave them? Are they going to be put on the cashless debit card? I will give you the ones from the trial site over the next week, but I also understand how this card is going to work. When I joined it five years ago—they won't tell you this, but I will—the reason they have this card is that eventually it's going to go across the country. That is the big picture. I know that. These veterans, they show they have served. I'm asking you if they can be removed from the card. There has got to be a simpler way. It shouldn't have to come from me. Remove the rigmarole, send you a letter and do the rest. Can you please put an exemption so that if they can show they have served with their service record they are to be removed immediately?
If the primary payment of the person is a Veterans' Affairs pension then they would not be subject to this card. I have taken on notice to find out for you whether there are any who are on part-pension, and I will get back to you on notice on that. In relation to the government's policy on this matter, this bill reflects the government's policy.
I just want to get it clear. All I want to know is: if for some reason, as this card is spreading around—which it more than likely will; I don't see it in a hurry, but maybe not—if a person at these trial sites can show you that they have been a member of the forces and they're receiving a pension, for whatever reason, under that, do they get an exemption? Could you put a policy through Centrelink to give them an exemption?
I'm happy to take on notice the question that you've asked in relation to people who have served our country, and I will look into that and come back to you in the very near future, after I've had the opportunity to have a look at the specific circumstances around the policy request you've just made of me. And I will come back to you.
Minister, it's very sad and disappointing to see the terms 'racist' and 'racism' used as an excuse. Whenever I've seen it, it's been an excuse covering a lack of facts and solid logical argument. It seems to be meant to intimidate, silence and divert. It won't silence people who have the facts. Has there ever been any targeting of groups, either under Labor or under the Liberal-National government? Or is this initiative broadly based upon people's needs and protecting children?
Senator Thorpe, I can absolutely assure you that I make it my business to consult with the communities that have sought to have this card in place around Australia—the four sites of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay up in the Hinkler area, the Goldfields, the Kimberley and Ceduna—and also have consulted broadly in the Northern Territory.
The CHAIR: Just a moment, Minister. Senator Thorpe?
A point of order: the question was, how do you address that this is not racist? You can ramble off people you've spoken to, but what is the evidence—
The CHAIR: Senator Thorpe, that's not—
The CHAIR: No, no, no; that's not a point of order, and you're restating the question, which the minister—
Well, she's not answering the question.
The CHAIR: Okay, well, when the minister's finished, jump up and put another question to her.
The CHAIR: Thanks.
Thanks, Senator Thorpe. To be quicker in my answer: it's via consultation that we make sure that we keep ourselves up to date on the issues that are occurring within the four trial sites, and making sure that the card and all the other services that sit around the card reflect the needs and wants of those communities.
Minister, it seems to be continuing on this racist theme. My understanding of 'racist' and 'racism' is where one group, a particular race, is classified or thought of as inferior or superior. Is there any discussion at all, or labelling, within the department of any group as inferior or superior? Or is this based on needs?
As I have stated on a number of occasions, the cashless debit card is in places where the community have sought the support and help of the government through the implementation of this card and other associated measures—and there are quite a number of them, including many of the wraparound services and support services that exist as well. The card is in places on the basis of the request of the leaders within a geographical community area.
I want to go back to the issue that was raised earlier today and was touched upon by Senator Lambie's question, which is future government policy. The government has made a range of assertions about the CDC. Government members and senators have made a range of assertions including Senator Canavan saying, 'I think it is now time we take the evidence on board and roll it out across the country.' The bill before the chamber has changed in the last hour and a half because of a deal you've done with Centre Alliance, which changes government policy. I'd like to know what government policy is? Is government policy the extension of the trial sites? Is government policy the extension of the trial sites for a period plus a dual system on those on income management in the Northern Territory? Is government policy what Senator Canavan is flagging, which is broader rollout? What is government policy?
Senator Wong, government policy is, on the basis of the bill that's before us, the continuation of the trial sites for a period of two years, obviously subject to the passage of the amendment that we're yet to get to, and the opportunity and the offering of the cashless debit card as a piece of technology for other people who are on other forms of income management, most specifically, in this instance, the BasicsCard, in the Northern Territory and in Cape York. We have always been very clear that any community that would come under the cashless debit card or income management would have to seek for that to happen themselves. The government does not seek to impose the cashless debit card on to communities. It is very clear in the legislation that the cashless debit card communities are those that have come forward and sought to have this measure put in place in their community.
It is my understanding from the comments you made earlier that you're going to do an assessment. So can I ask: what are you going to with the evaluations that you've got underway now or supposed to have finished, which just cost the nation $2.5 million?
Senator Siewert, once I have received the evaluation and had the opportunity to evaluate it—
Senator Siewert interjecting—
Senator Siewert that is not correct. I will release the report. I've been on the public record on a number of occasions to say that I will release that report. But can I just put on the record that there is nobody in this chamber that's more frustrated than me about the lack of quantitative data around these measures. As you rightly point out, the government has put millions of dollars into these evaluations, and they do provide valuable insights. We have had a number of reports commissioned over the years. You would be much more aware of the time frames of these. Your interest in this matter goes back a very long way, but mine does, too, particularly in the Ceduna area before I came to this place. They do provide very valuable insights and thoughts about the cashless debit card, but what they haven't been able to provide, and what I want to get access to, is the hard, quantitative data.
I accept that it is incredibly disappointing that we're not standing here with the kind of information that we would have liked. I'd like to be able to tell you the amount of money that went through bottle shops before and after the trial, I'd like to tell you about the number of hospital presentations and I'd like to tell you about the number of police call-outs. But all I have is anecdotal evidence from speaking to the police, or medical people or the call-out centre, and travelling with the MAPs bus. I have that information, and it's consistent and it's consistent across all the sites.
I hear what you're saying, Senator Siewert, and that is what I intend to do.
According to The Guardian on Tuesday, some of the data was released—as I understand it—from the Goldfields. Was the information reported there on the money? In other words, very few people wanted the card extended and it wasn't showing the sorts of results that would show it was a glowing success.
I'm not entirely sure what you're talking about, Senator Siewert. However, I do know that there was some early data released before anything was finalised. My understanding is that there has subsequently been more evaluation and research undertaken in the Goldfields. I'm not necessarily sure that the final results reflect the information you're talking about. But I will get back to you with clarity around the data that you're talking about when I'm able to.
I've listened to the debate and I've listened to some of the questions that have been asked here tonight. The question being asked about this being racism really disturbs me—that it's racist in the policy of picking areas where this is to happen.
I asked the minister directly how this came about and the areas that were picked. The areas were picked because the community leaders—whether that be the mayors, the councillors, the community itself or the business leaders—asked for this trial. The whole fact is that, yes, they're saying it's because of the population, and Senator Wong asked the question about the percentages. We got in the high 40 per cents for one area being Indigenous, and yet in another area there were only 18 per cent Indigenous, and the majority were non-Indigenous.
As a parliament, and leaders of this nation, we need to look at what's in the best interests of the people. This was a trial that was put out, and these were the communities that asked for the trial. It's a card which is actually going to restrict spending money to 80 per cent being spent on essential services. That means paying the rent, buying food and buying clothes for the kids. It actually ensures there's food on the table. Isn't the basis of what we all should be concerned about the wellbeing of the children? Adults can take care of themselves; children can't. Children rely on their parents. If we have a problem in our society where the parents are tied up with alcohol, or drug abuse or gambling and the money doesn't get to where it should, then isn't that the basis of why we're looking at this card?
It doesn't matter what race or what the colour of your skin is; we have problems right across our whole society; in regional and rural areas especially there's a huge drug problem. I hear it constantly, all the time. The thing is that some ask if it's racist. I could go into many areas where I can see we have racist policies in Australia, purely based on the fact that because you're Indigenous you get extra funding. You get care. But I'm not going to head down that path. Many Australians know that, and I don't think that's the basis of what we should be looking at here.
I've travelled in Indigenous communities—I've been there and I've seen the problems that we have there. But it's not only in Indigenous communities; we have them in other areas in Australia, and they need to be addressed. As the leaders of this nation, we must look at what we're trying to achieve here. It's for the benefit of the future generations. Kids in these communities are not getting schooled. They are not getting the care that they need. They're not getting fed.
The fact is, that's what we need to address. We also have to look at the fact that the communities have asked for this. I've listened to the Indigenous leaders who have begged for this card, said that they want this card. We have people opting in for the card. We have people in communities saying, 'We can't control our money, because our family and friends come to us and force us to hand money over to them.' Now they have control of their money. What are you actually worried about? They've still got 20 per cent of their money that they can spend as they wish; 80 per cent is going to go towards their household needs and towards looking after their children. If you look at the stats and reports—and I haven't got the figures in front of me—over 40 per cent were actually saying that there is less drug use, less gambling, less domestic violence. The police report that came in said that they are having less domestic violence and fewer problems. More kids are going to school, and they're actually being fed before they go to school.
These are the actual facts. To sit here and argue over whether it is racist policy is not what this is about. And I'm sick of some people in this chamber sitting there as if they're the victims. Our job is to make sure that there is good policy for all people, all Australians—that they have the benefit of our wise decisions, because they are relying on us to make the right decisions in this parliament. It is also a fact that on websites and on the opposition side of parliament we are seeing scaremongering going on—the things they are telling the elderly about who is going to be affected by this. People are ringing up my office and saying, 'Well, it is the age pensioners who are going to be losing this, due to the card.' But there is no talk about that whatsoever. That question has been asked by the government. It is not going to include the aged. So, I'm sick of the scaremongering that's going on, because I'm getting that at my office, and it is up on the website, clearly stating that it is the elderly, and the veterans. So, people think that you're going to tie them up in this, but it's got nothing to do with them. This has been completely blown out of proportion by people not telling the truth to the Australian people so that they can know the benefits of this card.
Minister, can you clarify here, in this chamber, to the people of Australia: are age pensioners going to be involved in this card? Are the people who are on disability pensions going to be included on this card? Who is it actually going to affect? And I think the Australian people need to have a direct answer. Is this going to be rolled out in this term of parliament, up until the next election, to all Australians? That is what is being said to Australians, in lies that are being put out by the opposition and by the Greens party. People have to have an honest answer that is recorded here in the parliament. Is it going to include the elderly? Is it going to include those on disability pensions? Is it going to be rolled out to all Australians before the next election? And what do you intend to do with your policies after the next election?
I'll try to answer all the components of Senator Hanson's questions and contribution, and I apologise if I miss some of them, but I'm more than happy to come back to them. Firstly, I acknowledge the second reading amendment of Senator Patrick, which gave us the opportunity to put on the record that the government has provided a commitment through the supporting of that second reading amendment that no recipient of the age pension or a veteran or services pension will be placed on the cashless debit card.
There are, however, a couple of exceptions to that, and I want to put that on the record very, very clearly. There are two main categories of exemption. People on the age pension are able to voluntarily seek to go on to the BasicsCard or the CDC. We know that around 2½ thousand people on the BasicsCard in the Northern Territory have gone on voluntarily, and, of the 2½ thousand people that are on voluntarily, over 800 are age pensioners. The second category of people who could be on income management who are of pension age or are on a pension card are those that have been referred by the Family Responsibilities Commission—and, for those who are listening and don't know what the Family Responsibilities Commission is, it is the group of commissioners in Cape York that make the decisions in relation to the people of that community, and it's also contained in this bill—or where child protection workers, social workers or the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Tribunal in the Northern Territory has requested, on the basis of the safety of the individual or the safety of those in their care, that they go on to the card. There are very few people on the card for that reason. However, I just want to be very clear: those are the only two categories of people on the age pension that are subject to income management.
In relation to your comments on the information and the data, around what we are seeing as improvements as a result of the cashless debit card and income management, as I said, they are not silver bullet remedies for some of the problems that the cashless debit card and the BasicsCard were seeking to reduce. They are one component of a suite of measures that need to be put together to bring about the kind of change that the communities who have sought access to the cashless debit card have requested. From reading the letter of support that I received from the community leaders in Ceduna, there were many things that the community has observed over the time that the cashless debit card has been in place in that community.
Senator Hanson, I will read just a little bit of the letter I received. It says: 'Since the introduction of the cashless debit card, we have observed positive changes in our communities. Fewer vulnerable people have been harassed or humbugged'—those are their words—'to hand over cash to others. More children are attending school. Families have money to spend on groceries, and alcohol fuelled violence has decreased. Our communities are safer. People are saying they have the money they need to provide for the basics of life, such as buying clothes and food, and paying rent and bills.' Community leaders across the whole of Australia have signed this letter, which was sent to me today, from all of the trial sites around Australia. They say more, but the final sentence is: 'In order to create stronger, safer and healthier communities now and for generations to come, we call upon our parliamentary representatives to pass the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020.' Those are the words of the people at the coalface. They are the people whose communities this card serves.
I have to ask the question, then: if you didn't have such a positive response, would you continue with the cashless debit card or would you drop it? You said you've had positive feedback. Would the government pursue extending it if it wasn't working?
Senator Hanson, the most important component of the cashless debit card trial sites has been the commitment and the participation of the community leaders within those communities. We constantly receive advice and feedback from those community leaders. It is the reason that we are seeking to continue the trial sites for the cashless debit card, because it is those people who are talking to us and telling us their stories that drive this.
I was in Ceduna on the weekend with Senator Patrick. I suppose it was interesting. Senator Patrick said to The Advertiser, 'Ceduna probably kicked me from a no to a position where I'm considering voting for it.' That was how powerful seeing the people at the coalface and hearing firsthand their pleas on behalf of their community about the continuation of the card was. I know that this is a difficult subject for some in this chamber, and I certainly acknowledge that, but the thing that struck me the most was going out to a community not far out of Ceduna called Koonibba. Koonibba is a reasonably small community. There would be fewer than 200 people living in Koonibba. But just a few weeks ago Southern Launch, which is a big satellite organisation in South Australia, picked the Koonibba lands as the place for their launch. The community told me how fantastic it was for the people of Koonibba to have the opportunity to work with and for Southern Launch to assist them in their launch activities. They subsequently asked me—
I think this is a very important debate. I'm sorry; I'd like to draw attention to the Greens. The humour that's going on here during this debate in their own little corner—
Honourable senators interjecting—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Order!
It is a courtesy of the chamber that the minister should be able to have her say in peace. I'm listening intently—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Order! I call the Greens to order. Senator Hanson.
I just think that it's a bit rude of the Greens, with the humour that's going on here and the laughing. We should be able to hear what the minister has to say—
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Hanson, I take your point of order. I ask all senators to act in a parliamentary way. Senator Wong has the call.
That's your ruling? Thank you. I'll proceed with the committee stage. Minister, I wanted to respond to a couple of things, if I may, that Senator Hanson said, and then I'll ask you a couple of questions.
Senator Hanson firstly accused some people in this chamber of 'playing the victim'. I'm sure she wasn't necessarily keen to listen to my second reading speech, but one of the points I made in that is that I think that our First Nations representatives here in the Senate and in the lower house, from the Labor Party, Senators McCarthy and Dodson and Ms Burney, and obviously other First Nations members, demonstrate courage every day. I don't think they come in here and play the victim. They come in here and seek—and are often rebuffed—to progress reconciliation and to progress policies that matter to them, to their parties and to their people. To simply dismiss them as 'playing the victim' is disrespectful, and I disagree with it. I'm up-front enough to say to you respectfully: I disagree.
The second thing with which I disagree is your suggestion—I think you were referring to the Labor Party; I wasn't sure—that we were lying about the possibility of a broader rollout. You can say that. But I would make the point that, out of the government's own mouths, they have talked about broader application. I think it is legitimate for a party to raise this fact when you firstly have Senator Canavan saying, I think two days ago, 'I think it's time we take the evidence on board and roll it out across the country,' when in February this minister said, 'It does need to have a broader application,' and when the Prime Minister said, 'The CDC is commending itself for wider application.' I appreciate that you have a different view on this policy measure. You're entitled to that. The Labor Party disagree with it, but I think it is entirely reasonable for us to point out that out of the mouths of the coalition is an indication that this is something that they want to roll out more broadly. I don't think that's an illegitimate thing for us to raise in public debate.
I turn now to a question to the minister, which is in relation to the provisions under the ASIC Act, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act. Section 12DL provides that a person must not send another person a credit card except in specified circumstances. I think it is clear from the ASIC letter that ASIC—and I invite the minister to explain her answer, because, despite her tone towards Senator McCarthy, I don't believe the letter supports the assertions she made—did grant a no-action letter in relation to the CDC, but only in relation to the initial trial. ASIC says that that 2016 letter 'was specified to apply to the trial of the program' and, 'It does not cover the proposed ongoing and broader program to be enabled by the bill.' The letter goes on to say that obviously nothing that ASIC does can actually change the operation of the law itself; it simply indicates no action.
If you are prevented by section 12DL—I assume you've considered this in is the deal that you've offered Ms Sharkie—from sending out a card to communities, what is the proposition? I'm sure Senator McCarthy can explain to you the postal service for some of the communities that are being described and the significant impediments that would be put in place for your plan if, indeed, you can't actually send it out. Are you expecting people to come in and collect it? What is the plan for this so-called transition for people who are currently, involuntarily, on income management to move from one to the other?
At the risk of repeating myself, to be very clear: there are no further plans or decisions that have been made in relation to the future of the cashless debit card. What the government policy is is before us at the moment. However, we will continue to work with community leaders, stakeholders and communities generally about the benefits and opportunities that we can offer them by working with them.
I'll go to your question around ASIC and section 12DL. Senator McCarthy, I want to put on the record that I meant no offence to you personally in my response; I just wanted to make it really clear that I understood very clearly that the ASIC determination does not apply to what we are intending to do in the way that we are proposing that the card will be offered to people in the Northern Territory. The reason that I say that, Senator Wong, is because the intention of the method to offer the card is actually to go out to communities, one by one, and work with communities to explain to them the benefits of the card and to help them in the process of moving from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card.
In fact, we as a government, through Services Australia, do remote servicing around the Northern Territory. We do it around the whole of Australia; we make sure that we provide a service to people, even if they're in the most remote of communities. For people who want to go on to the cashless debit card, we are now offering a voluntary transfer from the BasicsCard to the cashless welfare card which entirely circumvents the issue which has been raised today by Senator McCarthy. However, it doesn't change the intention of the government in relation to how we intend to continue to consult with and assist people in the Northern Territory.
In fact, in the consultations that I did in January this year when I was in the Northern Territory, I went to a number of communities and we spoke about how they would like the information to be provided to them about the cashless debit card. They sought for that information to be provided to them in person, and often the request was for it to be in first language—and I acknowledge that there are quite a number of those, Senator McCarthy. So the process to make this offering to the Northern Territory will probably take some time, but it is our intention to engage one on one with communities as this card is offered out into the Northern Territory.
Just following on from Senator Wong there with the ASIC situation, we've got over 200 communities, and one of the biggest issues is the inability to have letterboxes in each of the houses, and in Alice Springs we have 15 to 18 town camps. So if we follow that thinking in the ruling of ASIC in the letter we talked about today, how do you propose to not put the department and the government in a precarious situation legally if you cannot deliver these cards and you have to actually ask each of those families first? Have you sought a legal understanding of whether you can actually do that?
The method by which this activity occurs is no different to how people who are currently on the BasicsCard would seek to get another BasicsCard if they lost one or how people would get a BasicsCard if they came on to the BasicsCard and had not previously been on the card.
But, Minister, we are talking about the Indue card, which is not the BasicsCard. It is actually a separate card altogether. So you are actually delivering a new credit card, or debit card in this instance. Is there an assumption that, just because they have the BasicsCard, you can automatically roll out the cashless debit card?
Senator McCarthy, the question that is currently before the chair, the amendment that I moved a while ago, actually seeks to make the option for people on the BasicsCard to move to the cashless debit card a voluntary action. In undertaking that voluntary action to seek to have the BasicsCard, the consent is ipso facto given by the person who is seeking to have the card. So it's not a matter of the card being posted to somebody who didn't know that it was arriving; the person actually has to actively engage in the process to seek to change from the BasicsCard to the cashless debit card.
The amendment that is currently before us completely negates the issue that we were discussing today in question time. The issue we were discussing in question time was specifically about the means by which somebody would receive a financial instrument—which, as I've said, we were already intending to be able to respond to through the means by which we will be consulting with communities and offering the card up. But the fact that it is now a voluntary measure completely overrides the issue that we have been discussing today.
So how long will those people on the BasicsCard in the Northern Territory who don't want to go on the cashless debit card stay on the BasicsCard before you expect that they should be going onto the cashless debit card?
The very nature of this amendment is that if people do not wish to go onto the cashless debit card there is no requirement for them to do so. What I'm seeking to do by this particular amendment is to say to people—we will certainly provide everybody who is currently on the BasicsCard with the information about the increased functionality of the cashless debit card. The comparison between the two cards is quite stark. I know you've bothered to inform yourself around the two different cards. One of the biggest issues that was raised initially with the rollout of the cashless debit card, when it was clearly obvious that that's what it was—it had a big 'Indue' written on the front of it, and, similarly, the BasicsCard is lime green and people have to use a BasicsCard terminal—is that it is quite obvious to anybody and everybody if somebody has one of these cards. The cashless debit card now does not have any identification on it to indicate that it is a cashless debit card. It is just a silver card.
One of the technological advancements that is being put in place and worked on—once again I give a shout-out to Senator O'Sullivan, who has been working with a number of the technology operators and the wider community—is to make it available so that people can actually have the card on their phone, so they just tap and pay. In doing so you remove any obviousness of the fact that the payment method that the person is using to buy their items is actually an income management card.
The technology is very advanced. In the process of consulting with communities and making the offering we will seek to put to people who are on the BasicsCard the increased functionality that is available to them. There are 16,000 outlets that will take the BasicsCard; over 900,000 outlets will take the CDC. You can use the CDC online. You can use the CDC to make overseas purchases. So the actual functionality of the cashless debit card is significantly enhanced from the BasicsCard that is currently in place in the Northern Territory.
We're debating this piece of legislation now in committee stage because one member of this chamber changed their position in favour of allowing the government's agenda to continue. That of course was Senator Griff. He is not here. He didn't bother to vote on the second reading amendment. He has left the building tonight. He's not here to debate the details of this bill. Rebekha Sharkie, the member for Mayo, and Senator Griff, Centre Alliance, were both clearly on the record opposing this piece of legislation. South Australians should be very aware that this is not the first time that Centre Alliance—Rebekha Sharkie, the member for Mayo, and Senator Griff—have said one thing one week and done another thing days later, to the detriment of the Australian community.
Only a couple of months ago Centre Alliance voted with the government in an attack on universities and university students. Now, on Christmas Eve, we have a gutless stunt by Rebekha Sharkie and Senator Stirling Griff—
The CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, I think you're aware that you need to refer to Senator Sharkie—
I was just about to correct myself. On the eve of Christmas, in the last sitting of this parliament, we've had the member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, and Senator Stirling Griff gutlessly allowing this piece of legislation—which they opposed in the House of Representatives and which they told the Australian community they did not support—to pass and to have a detrimental effect on those who have for years argued with members in this place to change this awful, awful system. It is detrimental to the lives of these people. It does have a disproportionate impact on First Nations communities. And, despite all the promises that have been made, Centre Alliance is now just allowing the government to do what they want.
The member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, is quickly being known as someone you just can't trust. You can't trust her word on anything. Centre Alliance say one thing in Adelaide and another thing in Canberra. They say one thing on Monday and do another thing on Wednesday night. Their word is useless. They don't tell the truth when it comes to what their agenda is. They don't disclose the deals they do with this government. And they come into this place and purport to argue for transparency and accountability. Their word is mud. You can't trust them. You shouldn't vote for them. And they should not be protected.
The CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, please resume your seat. Senator Hanson?
I think calling Rebekha Sharkie, a member of the lower house, gutless and saying you can't trust them is unparliamentary. She's not here to defend herself. I think that should not be allowed, and I think the senator should withdraw her remarks.
The CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Hanson. I have been listening very carefully, and Senator Hanson-Young has not said anything that's unparliamentary. But it's a good occasion to remind everyone in this debate to be respectful. Thank you.
South Australians who are concerned about the impact that the expansion of the cashless welfare card will have on communities—not just in Ceduna but around the country—will be disgusted tonight to find out that the member for Mayo and Senator Stirling Griff, Centre Alliance, have done a deal with the government at their expense. South Australians who believed that this political party would tell the truth, would stand up to the government of the day, would hold them to account have, sadly, just been let down. And this party doesn't even have the guts to come in and say what it is that it is going to do. Centre Alliance tonight have shown that they are gutless, that they're up for pathetic deals with the Morrison government and that they simply cannot be trusted.
Minister, you said that you've had a technical working group and you fixed the technical problems.
Senator Ruston interjecting—
Well, you said you fixed them. What's the suite of options that will be available to someone at Balgo in Western Australia for the use of the suite of things that you've fixed now? Secondly, what's been the cost of this working group in fixing the technical problems?
The cashless debit card works at all shops that have an EFTPOS facility, both physical ones and those online. So the technological advances that have been undertaken under the working group have been around things like product-level blocking. For instance, when the product-level blocking technology is rolled out—we're currently trialling it in a number of places around in Australia, and you'll be very pleased to know that it's working particularly well—it will mean that if someone using the card went into what we would refer to as a 'mixed' merchant, being somebody who sells prohibited products as well as all the other products, they would still be able to use their card at the terminal because the terminal and the technology that exists would differentiate between a product that is allowable and a product that isn't allowable.
Another technological advance is tap and pay. Many people—I admit not all people, but many—have mobile phones. They'd be able to have the technology embedded into their phones so that they could tap and pay, and wouldn't actually have to carry the card. One of the most important technological advances is that you can use your cashless debit card to make purchases online. Even if you were in a remote community—obviously, one with internet reception—you could use your phone or other device to make purchases online.
So we will continue to work with the card, to the extent that we're able, to make the card operate in exactly the same way, with no discernible difference, as any other debit card that might be in your wallet or mine here tonight, with the exception, through the product-level blocking mechanism, that the prohibited items of alcohol and gambling products would not be able to be purchased on the card.
Sorry, I may not have been clear, Minister. What has it cost you to get those technical adjustments with the banks, Australia Post and whomever else were on the technical working group?
I can advise that the cost has been around $3 million for the development of all technologies which relate to this. That includes working with the product-level blocking and the pilot for that, the cloud based activities and the multiple-issuer feasibility study.
I'd just like to reinforce something about the work on the multiple issuer that I think I mentioned in answer to a question from someone else on the other side. At the moment, Indue is the only issuer of the cashless debit card. We're seeking to have a situation where the person has the choice of who they would like to have as their issuer, so if they happen to bank with Westpac then Westpac would be the issuer of the card. But, as I advised the chamber earlier, we're already into discussions and have signed an agreement with the Traditional Credit Union in the Northern Territory. They're very keen to provide this service to their people.
I'd also put on the record the extraordinary amount of investment that we have received in the technological advances from organisations like the banks, some of the technology providers and also some philanthropic institutions which have put their time and money into supporting the development of this really quite state-of-the-art and advanced technology which we have been working on in this working group.
As we come towards the conclusion of this farcical debate here, I think it's important to note the comments by Senator Hanson-Young, which I certainly agree with. I want to put on the record the absolute disappointment that the people of the Northern Territory have in not even hearing from the minister in terms of which organisations she has spoken to in the last few hours in order to get this amendment through and in order, obviously, to get the deal through that she has done with Centre Alliance. We heard that from Senator Lambie as well, the fact that the minister had been doing that.
I think it's an absolute disgrace that the people of the Northern Territory cannot get the answers from you in relation to that conversation, that deal that you've made. It's also an absolute disgrace on the part of Centre Alliance for not having the courage of their conviction, if this is what they truly believed and was the way they were always going to go, to really address this Senate and in particular to talk to the people of the Northern Territory.
I have thanked Senator Patrick and Senator Lambie for taking the time to visit the Northern Territory, to listen to people and to respond to them directly in what they were thinking and planning to do. Rebekha Sharkie MP in the lower house was also invited to come to the Northern Territory. She took up that offer, and at the last minute was unable to come; however, she sent her staff. Again, the people of the Northern Territory were very thankful for that.
They took the time—over a week—along with Senator Lambie, to talk to the Tangentyere Council, the council that is responsible for the town camps around Alice Springs, to talk to the Tangentyere women and the women's group—Rebekha Sharkie's staff were a part of that—and also then to travel. We went out to the western Macs, out to the communities. Through the representation of Rebekha Sharkie's staff, the people of the Northern Territory, in particular Central Australia, were able to express directly their absolute concerns about the cashless debit card.
So it is an deeply disappointing and a complete betrayal of the people of the Northern Territory by Centre Alliance. There has been no discussion, no respect in conversation, to even bring this as something that Centre Alliance was going to do. People may say, 'That's politics.' But what it really says more than anything is how desperate this government is, how desperate this government is to keep a failed policy—one that has proven no evidence that it actually works. The minister herself has stood up tonight and talked about anecdotal evidence. We can all say that. But what we expected in this Senate was a far greater depth of respect and of that evidence coming forward. Like the cowards that you are, you've scurried off and made the deals. You haven't even talked to the people of the Northern Territory, Minister. You haven't even said who you've spoken to in the last few hours in order to bring this last-minute amendment into the Senate.
An honourable senator interjecting—
I pick up on your interjection. You are. You haven't spoken to the people of the Northern Territory in the last few hours when this amendment came forward. You haven't been sitting in here, so you don't even know what you're talking about. So I would settle down over there.
It is terrible. It is deeply disappointing. But I do thank Senator Rex Patrick and Senator Lambie for the dignity and the respect which you've shown to the people of the Northern Territory.
I have a question for the minister, but before asking it I would like to address a comment that Senator Wong made. I have a lot of respect for Senator Wong's ability, but she referred, as I understand it, to Senator McCarthy as a representative of the First Peoples. I see Senator McCarthy as a gracious, committed person, a very considered person, but I don't see her as a representative of the First Peoples. I see her as a representative of the people of the Northern Territory in the same way as I see Senator McMahon as a representative of the Northern Territory. I've dealt with both and they are both strong representatives of their people. That's the way I see them. I don't see a skin colour. I see the passion for the people that they represent.
Minister, is it natural for a trial to be refined as experience is gained to find more effective solutions?
I thank senators in the chamber for their contributions on this very important bill and acknowledge the diversity of views that have been expressed in the time that we have had through our second reading speeches today and this evening in debate on the bill.
The CHAIR: Senator Lambie, are you seeking leave?
I seek leave to withdraw amendments (1), (4) and (5) on sheet 1173, as circulated in the chamber. I will be going through with the other amendments that I have.
The CHAIR: The time allotted for debate on the bill has expired. In accordance with the resolution agreed earlier today, I will now put the questions on the remaining stages of the bill. I will deal with amendment (1) on sheet TK264, moved by Senator Ruston. The question is that items (3) and (4) of schedule 1 stand as printed.
The question now is that amendments (2) to (8) on sheet TK264 and amendments (1) and (2) on sheet TK265 circulated by the government be agreed to.
Government's circulated amendments—
(2) Schedule 1, page 11 (before line 3), before item 50, insert:
49A Section 123TC (paragraph (b) of the definition of excluded Part 3B payment nominee)
Repeal the paragraph, substitute:
(b) a Part 3B payment nominee who:
(i) is not subject to the income management regime; and
(ii) is not a program participant under Part 3D.
(3) Schedule 1, item 74, page 17 (lines 13 to 15), omit paragraph 124PGE(1)(f), substitute:
(f) the person has made a request under subsection (4A) to become a program participant under this section; and
(fa) the Secretary has given the person a notice under subsection (5) stating that the person is a program participant under this section and the notice is in force; and
(fb) one of the following applies:
(i) the person was subject to the income management regime under section 123UCB or 123UCC on the day before the notice given by the Secretary under subsection (5) of this section came into force;
(ii) the person has previously been a program participant under subsection (2) of this section and a notice of a kind referred to in paragraph (2)(d) of this section is not in force in relation to the person;
(iii) the person has previously been a program participant under subsection (3) of this section but is no longer such a participant; and
(4) Schedule 1, item 74, page 18 (lines 6 to 8), omit paragraph 124PGE(2)(h), substitute:
(h) the person has made a request under subsection (4A) to become a program participant under this section; and
(ha) the Secretary has given the person a notice under subsection (5) stating that the person is a program participant under this section and the notice is in force; and
(hb) the person was subject to the income management regime under section 123UC or 123UFAA on the day before the notice given by the Secretary under subsection (5) of this section came into force; and
(5) Schedule 1, item 74, page 18 (lines 25 to 27), omit paragraph 124PGE(3)(g), substitute:
(g) the person has made a request under subsection (4A) to become a program participant under this section; and
(ga) the Secretary has given the person a notice under subsection (5) stating that the person is a program participant under this section and the notice is in force; and
(gb) the person was subject to the income management regime under section 123UCA on the day before the notice given by the Secretary under subsection (5) of this section came into force; and
(6) Schedule 1, item 74, page 18 (after line 36), after subsection 124PGE(4), insert:
(4A) A person may make a request to the Secretary to become a program participant under this section.
(4B) A request under subsection (4A) cannot be withdrawn or revoked.
(7) Schedule 1, item 74, page 19 (line 3), omit "subsection (1), (2) or (3)", substitute "this section".
(8) Schedule 1, item 74, page 19 (after line 10), at the end of section 124PGE, add:
Continuity of requests and notices
(a) a person makes a request under subsection (4A); or
(b) the Secretary gives a person a notice under subsection (5) and has not revoked the notice;
the continuity of the request or notice is not affected by the person ceasing to be a program participant under subsection (1), (2) or (3) for a period.
(1) Schedule 1, item 16, page 5 (lines 16 and 17), omit the item, substitute:
16 Section 124PF
Repeal the section, substitute:
124PF Sunset provision
(1) This Part ceases to have effect at the end of 31 December 2022.
(2) Despite subsection (1), at any time before 1 July 2023, the Minister may, by legislative instrument, make rules prescribing matters of a transitional nature (including prescribing any saving or application provisions) relating to that cessation.
(3) The rules must not provide for the crediting of amounts to welfare restricted bank accounts after 31 December 2022.
(4) For a person who was a program participant under section 124PGE immediately before that cessation, the rules may make provision for and in relation to that person becoming subject to the income management regime under Part 3B on and after 1 January 2023.
(5) To avoid doubt, the rules may not do the following:
(a) create an offence or civil penalty;
(b) provide powers of:
(i) arrest or detention; or
(ii) entry, search or seizure;
(c) impose a tax;
(d) set an amount to be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund under an appropriation in this Act;
(e) directly amend the text of this Act.
(2) Schedule 1, item 52, page 12 (line 25), at the end of subsection 123UP(4), add "and before 1 January 2023".
I will now deal with the amendment circulated by Senator Patrick. The question now is that amendments (1) to (6) on sheet 1171 circulated by Senator Patrick be agreed to.
Senator Patrick's circulated amendments—
(1) Schedule 1, page 19 (after line 26), after item 79, insert:
79A Subsection 124PHB(2)
Repeal the subsection, substitute:
Form of application
(2) The application must:
(a) be made in writing using a form approved by the Secretary; and
(b) be accompanied by the documents and other information required by the form.
79B After subsection 124PHB(3)
(a) the person has a disability or the person provides care to one or more other persons (other than as a parent); and
(b) the Secretary is satisfied that, because of that disability or the provision of that care, the person is unable to demonstrate reasonable and responsible management of the person's affairs (including financial affairs), taking into account all of the matters referred to in paragraph (3)(a); and
(c) the Secretary is satisfied that the person has reasonable and responsible management of the person's affairs (including financial affairs), taking into account all of those matters;
then paragraph (3)(a) is taken to have been met in relation to the person.
79C After subsection 124PHB(4)
(4A) If the Secretary has not made a decision on a person's application at the end of the period of 60 days beginning on the day after subsection (2) is satisfied in relation to the application, then the Secretary is taken to have made a determination under subsection (3) that the person is not a program participant.
79D Subsection 124PHB(8)
After "subsection (3)", insert "(including because of the operation of subsection (4A))".
(2) Schedule 1, item 87, page 22 (line 11), omit "notifiable instrument", substitute "legislative instrument".
(3) Schedule 1, item 87, page 22 (line 20), omit "notifiable instrument", substitute "legislative instrument".
(4) Schedule 1, page 23 (after line 13), after item 92, insert:
92A Paragraph 124PJ(4)(a)
Repeal the paragraph, substitute
(a) the Secretary is satisfied that the person is unable to use the person's debit card that was issued to the person and that is attached to the person's welfare restricted bank account, or is unable to access that account, as a direct result of:
(i) a technological fault or malfunction with that card or account; or
(ii) a power or communications outage; or
(iii) a natural disaster; or
(iv) if a national emergency declaration (within the meaning of the National Emergency Declaration Act 2020) is in force—an emergency to which the declaration relates; or
(5) Schedule 1, page 23 (before line 14), before item 93, insert:
92B At the end of Subdivision B of Division 3 of Part 3D
124PMA Transfer of funds from welfare restricted bank account
(1) For a person who is a program participant or voluntary participant, the Secretary may make a determination that the person is permitted to transfer a specified amount from the person's welfare restricted bank account to another bank account.
(2) The Secretary may make a determination under subsection (1) only if the Secretary is satisfied that the person is unable to use the person's debit card that was issued to the person and that is attached to the person's welfare restricted bank account as a direct result of a matter covered by paragraph 124PJ(4)(a).
(3) A determination under subsection (1) is not a legislative instrument.
(6) Schedule 1, page 30 (after line 31), after item 98, insert:
98A Application provision—exiting cashless welfare arrangements
The repeal and substitution of subsection 124PHB(2) of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 made by this Part, and subsections 124PHB(3A) and (4A) of that Act as inserted by this Part, apply in relation to applications made on or after the commencement of this item.
Can I ask that they be put as per the running sheet, because there are people that will vote differently in respect of each of these divisions, as I understand it.
The CHAIR: Yes. So the question is that amendments (1) and (6) on sheet 1171 be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
The CHAIR: The question now is that amendments (2) and (3) on sheet 1171 be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
I will now deal with the amendments circulated by the Jackie Lambie Network. The question is that items (1), (2), (6) to (15), (17) to (49) and parts 2 and 3 of schedule 1 stand as printed.
Jackie Lambie Network's circulated amendments—
(3) Schedule 1, items 6 to 15, page 3 (line 22) to page 5 (line 15), TO BE OPPOSED.
(6) Schedule 1, items 17 to 49, page 5 (line 18) to page 10 (line 28), TO BE OPPOSED.
(7) Schedule 1, Parts 2 and 3, page 11 (line 1) to page 35 (line 10), TO BE OPPOSED.