Further card rollout in doubt

A Senate committee has supported the continuation of the federal government’s cashless debit card at trial sites including Ceduna and the expansion into new locations, but the Labor Party does not support the expansion.

The Senate community affairs legislation committee handed down a report on the card last week, recommending the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 be passed.

The card was first trialled in Ceduna from April 2016 plus in the East Kimberley region in Western Australia and extended this year.

The federal opposition said it would back extending the Ceduna and East Kimberley trials, however a proposal to expand into new locations, including Bundaberg in Queensland and Western Australia’s Goldfields, is under threat with Labor expected to vote against the rollout.

Opposition social services spokesperson Jenny Macklin said Labor would not support the rollout due to insufficient consultation with those communities and the criticism of the evaluation and the card’s effectiveness.

“After conducting our own consultations with people in Bundaberg and the Goldfields and hearing evidence from the Senate inquiry, it has become clear that Labor cannot support Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 in its current form.

“Labor believes that there is insufficient credible evidence at this point to support the establishment of further trials of the cashless debit card.”

She called the evaluation into Ceduna and East Kimberley trials by Orima “flawed” and “inconclusive”.

Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said the Orima evaluation was evidence of the positive impact the card had had during the trial period, including that 41 per cent of recipients were drinking less alcohol.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said Labor’s opposition was purely “ideological”.

“They have joined the Greens in opposing the card, irrespective of the devastation that alcohol is causing these communities, paid by the welfare dollar,” he said.

“These communities are crying out for help, to stop the drug and alcohol abuse, to stop the violence and to build better lives for their children – why does Labor want to support welfare dollars continuing to go to alcohol and drugs, knowing the devastation it causes in these places?”