Centre Alliance Senator for South Australia Rex Patrick says further cashless debit card evaluation is needed to understand the effectiveness of the Ceduna trial.
Mr Patrick was in Ceduna last week to discuss major regional issues such as the trial and drilling in the Great Australian Bight, and he held community catch-up sessions at the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel, while also meeting with mayor Allan Suter, health service providers, businesses and community members.
He said he was interested in speaking to locals to gauge an understanding of how effective the card trial had been since its inception in 2016.
“My party holds a crucial balance in the Senate as to whether or not we extend the card nationally,” he said.
“We did support the trial, recognising there were social problems particularly from alcohol and drug abuse and gambling, that there was social harm and this was a potential mechanism to deal with some of those problems.
“We passed the legislation for the trial to commence but when the government wanted to do a third site we found the data collection wasn’t sufficient and you couldn’t get a definitive answer as to how the trial had progressed here and how it has affected the community, so prior to supporting the Kalgoorlie trial we insisted on a much better data-collection regime, which has been put in place.”
Mr Patrick said his visit allowed him to gather valuable information he could take back to his party.
“The card appears to have had an effect on the town, but there is a difference of opinion as to whether it has achieved its objectives,” he said.
“It’s accepted there is less unsocial behaviour in the township and evidence of it working as a money-management tool, but we are hearing people are still drinking, doing drugs and gambling, and that there have been holes in the card and mechanisms of getting around it, although it was accepted that over time some of those have been plugged.
“The mayor says less unsocial behaviour is helping businesses, locals and tourists, and I don’t doubt that, but health services told me it has shifted issues to nearby communities so the question is if it’s addressing the underlying issues and could that be addressed by going national with the card.”
Mr Patrick said his impression was there needed to be more than just a card rolled out nationally, rather it had to be part of a range of services to address issues.
He said he was disappointed the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay rollout passed through the Senate as the party wanted to wait for results from Kalgoorlie, with the newly implemented data collection method, before a decision on further expansion.
Mr Patrick also said there were divided sentiments related to oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, although his impression was Ceduna appeared more open to the prospect than in Port Lincoln.
He said he had some concerns about Equinor’s potential drilling project.
“I’m not totally convinced by the cost/benefit analysis, I have concerns about the response time if something were to happen, and there’s also the revenue source.”
He said he also wanted a review of how the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax operated.
Mr Patrick said he wanted to visit Ceduna again soon to follow up, especially to see how the card trial was faring.
“I’m a Senator for South Australia and so have got to visit all regions, but I want to come back soon and follow up on the card with various groups.”