It’s the tenth day of Daniel Taylor’s hunger strike over what he says are serious privacy concerns regarding the cashless debit card trial in Kununurra.
“The first sort of five days or six days were the hardest and I'm not hungry anymore - I've accepted in my mind that I'm not going to eat until this is resolved,” say Mr Taylor.
He says his drastic protest is intended to draw attention to community concerns over the controversial cashless welfare card trial, rolled out by the federal government in the remote eastern Kimberly towns of Kununurra and Wyndham in late April, and the South Australian town of Ceduna in March.
The trial quarantines 80 percent of welfare payments on a card that cannot be used to withdraw cash, gamble or buy alcohol.
In Kununurra 738 people are currently using the card out of a population of around 5500 people- 25 percent of whom are Indigenous.
Mr Taylor - who is on the work for the dole scheme - says the card is not making a difference to those that really need the help in the town, with black markets springing up to circumvent the system.
While he says there are broad community concerns about the lack of freedom imposed by the card, his primary concern is privacy.
He believes the private company which administers the card, Indue, can collect and abuse the personal information of cardholders.
“It was basically forced on us, we were given it to activate and we didn't sign any terms and conditions,” he says.
“Once I read through - all of our information is shared and given to other government agencies, third parties.”
Both Mr Taylor and his wife, who is Indigenous, have handed back their cards in protest.
The couple are supporting a one-month old baby and are now living off the portion of their welfare payments that aren’t controlled by the government or deducted for rent- just $200 a fortnight.
Indue’s website states that under the terms and conditions of the card, it can collect personal information such as age, address, welfare payments and transactions made in relation to your account including deposits and withdrawals.
The company can provide those details to ‘service providers’, ‘regulatory bodies, government agencies’, ‘law enforcement bodies and courts’ and ‘other parties as is authorised by law’.
The Department of Social Services told NITV that “both Indue and the Government must adhere to the Australian Privacy Principles” which ensure that “only information reasonably necessary for Indue’s functions and activities is collected.”
The Department further states that “neither the Government nor Indue can see what items are being purchased using the cashless debit card ... Government and Indue are also prohibited from selling any personal information.”
Mr Taylor says such a severe breach of privacy would not be tolerated in densely populated and highly educated areas, like Sydney.
“It feels more like a study on the people than an actual welfare trial,” he says.
Mr Taylor says he wrote a letter to the Department of Social Services which was sent on his behalf by his community development program provider, East Kimberley JoPathways, but he has not received a response.
East Kimberly Job Pathways say they have received a response from the Department on Wednesday and are working to get it to Mr Taylor.
The West Australian Greens party have stated that the card vilifies ‘vulnerable Australians’ and makes ‘life harder for working age income support recipients’.
The federal government says on their website that the trial is meant to determine the best way to provide support ‘in locations where high levels of welfare dependence exist alongside high levels of harm related to drug and alcohol abuse’.