Cashless debit card trial to expand in WA

The federal government's cashless debit card will be rolled out in Western Australia's Goldfields region after legislation passed through the upper house.

The federal government's cashless debit card will be expanded to Western Australia's Goldfields region after legislation cleared the Senate.

Existing sites in Ceduna in South Australia and WA's East Kimberley area will have their trials extended to June 2019 after the Nick Xenophon Team and other crossbenchers supported the bill.

Under the scheme, 80 per cent of a welfare recipient's income is loaded onto a non-cash debit card which cannot be used to gamble or buy alcohol.

The NXT's lone lower house MP Rebekha Sharkie voted against the bill last week, which then included rollouts in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg in Queensland.

The NXT's crucial Senate voting bloc were expected to block the trial's growth, but compromised with the single expansion site in the Goldfields on Monday night.

Labor opposed any new trial sites, arguing there was insufficient evidence to show the existing trials 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.

He said the program had already cost $25.5 million - or $12,000 per participant - though the government argued most of that was due to one-off start-up costs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the card had made communities safer by addressing welfare-fuelled violence and misery.

"The cashless debit card is not for everyone but if the community has stepped up and asked for help, we should put politics aside and listen," Mr Turnbull said.

Liberal frontbencher Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said research found the scheme had been effective in reducing alcohol consumption and gambling.

WA Greens senator Rachel Siewert said she had deep concerns with the NXT agreeing to expand the trial.

"I think it's a bit rich quite frankly for them to say 'oh yeah we'll support another trial site - make it in Western Australia'," Senator Siewert said.

Crossbenchers David Leyonhjelm, who argued taxpayers didn't want their money to pay for other people's alcohol or gambling, Fraser Anning, Derryn Hinch and Cory Bernardi also supported the bill.

One Nation supported the scheme with leader Pauline Hanson channelling her 1996 maiden speech with claims of an "aboriginal industry" in Australia's welfare system.

The bill will now return to the lower house for amendments to be approved.

Source AAP

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch