Indigenous representatives from the Northern Territory say there has been no community consultation on the cashless welfare card expansion.
Shahni Wellington

26 Nov 2019 - 6:22 PM  UPDATED 26 Nov 2019 - 6:22 PM

A group of Indigenous delegates from the Northern Territory has travelled thousands of kilometres to Canberra to lobby government officials to abandon the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card.

The delegation includes representatives from the Central Land Council, the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council and the Arnhem Land Progress Association. 

The controversial Social Security bill is up for debate in the upper and lower house this week, which would see existing cashless welfare card trial sites extended and introduce the controversial system in additional communities in the Cape York region of QLD and elsewhere in the Northern Territory by April next year.

The debit card, which quarantines 80 per cent of welfare recipient's income, has received heavy criticism for unfairly targeting Indigenous people. 

Policy Director from the Central Land Council, Dr Josie Douglas, says the group had met with members of the crossbench, including Senator Jacqui Lambie and MP Rebekha Sharkie, to encourage them to vote against the bill. 

"We are thankful that the Senator (Jacqui Lambie) has listened to us and understands and appreciates that there has been a lack of consultation," Dr Douglas said.

"There's been a beaten path to all the trial sites of the cashless debit card, but given that the Northern Territory is being considered as a trial site, with up to 23,000 people will be impacted... There's been no visit to the Northern Territory," she said.

The fate of the bill relies heavily on the votes of Independent politicians.

Senator Lambie has previously said her support depends on the introduction of mandatory drug testing for politicians and increased rehabilitation services.

An open invitation to the Territory

In the Northern Territory, the scheme would replace the Basics Card - An income management system that has been in place for 12 years as part of the Howard-era Intervention.

A senate inquiry has been touring the country to hear from the public on the divisive issue.

Northern Territory Aboriginal organisations have previously condemned the expansion, labelling it "dangerous and harmful."

Dr Douglas says there needs to be more community consultation before the bill is passed.

"The transition from the basics card to the cash debit card has not been an issue where Aboriginal people on the ground in the Northern Territory have been consulted," 

"It's a very strange situation and sadly... Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are all too familiar with policies being made for them and about them, without coming to the NT to talk to people that will be impacted by government policy," she said.

The group also had "brief" conversations with the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Mr Ken Wyatt.

"He's quite surprised about the lack of consultation in the Northern Territory," Dr Douglas said.

"We would encourage Minister Wyatt to also come to the Northern Territory and and speak to people on the ground about the cashless debit card."

'The government is ignoring calls from First Nations people' on cashless card
Ministerial powers to decide the ratio of welfare payments put on restrictive debit cards for NT residents needs to be made clear, senators say.