The trial of the cashless welfare card will continue for another 12 months in Ceduna and Western Australia’s East Kimberley region, and a third trial is set to start at another site.
A Greens disallowance motion to stop the trials was voted down in the Senate last week, with the existing trials to be extended until June 2019 and a new site in Western Australia’s Goldfields region set to be added after the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and other crossbenchers supported the bill on Monday.
Ceduna mayor Allan Suter was pleased with the Senate outcome.
“Thank goodness the trial will extend – the experiment has been successful and I don’t understand why it is still a trial,” he said.
“It ought to be ongoing as far as I’m concerned.
“Over the next 12 months I am hoping to see ongoing success, to see improvements that have happened to date improved upon even further to demonstrate to those opposing further extension just how successful it has been.”
Mr Suter said the expansion to the Goldfields was “excellent news”.
NXT, Labor and the Greens had been expected to vote against the expansion of the card, but NXT and Labor had shown support for the continuation of existing trials.
NXT’s sole lower house MP Rebekha Sharkie voted against the bill last week, which at that stage also included roll-outs to Queensland sites Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, while Labor argued there was insufficient evidence to suggest the two trial sites were working.
“Labor requires a much more rigorous evaluation of the cashless debit card in the existing trial areas prior to any expansion,” Labor frontbencher Doug Cameron told parliament on Monday.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said last week the trials should end in the current cycle but the Senate voted down her proposal.
“We do not need to drag the trials out, the evaluation has occurred and we don’t need to continue to inflict the card on participants,” she posted on her Facebook page.
“Because the Australian Greens hold the view that the trials do not need to continue at all, I moved a disallowance motion that if supported would have stopped the trials immediately.”
Former Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, who was a key proponent in the establishment of the card in his previous role, tweeted on Tuesday the trial’s extension and expansion was “a critical measure to address welfare-fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse”.