• The federal government's cashless debit card will be expanded to Western Australia's Goldfields region after legislation cleared the Senate. (The Conversation)Source: The Conversation
The card has been highly criticised for targeting Indigenous Australians, as 78 per cent of those who are on the card are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.
Rangi Hirini

7 Feb 2018 - 6:11 PM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2018 - 6:22 PM

It appears the cashless welfare card could lose its support in the Senate crossbench as Nick Xenophon members have said they will vote against it.

NXT MP Rebekka Sharkie announced on Tuesday she would not support the expansion of the cashless cards.

“We do not know if the cashless welfare card is, indeed, helping the communities where it is currently on trial,” Minister Sharkie said in the Senate.

Currently, there are two regions where the card trials have been introduced. Ceduna and surrounding areas in South Australia, which include the communities of Koonibba, Scotdesco, Yalata and Oak Valley; and the East Kimberley in Western Australia, which includes Kununurra, Wyndham and surrounding communities.

Labor MP Linda Burney says the Labor party will be voting against a national rollout of the card as the evidence of the trial’s success is unclear.

"Labor understands that the complexity of chronic unemployment and poverty and such entrenched social issues cannot and will not simply be solved by income management alone," she said.

As costs mount, the government should abandon the Cashless Debit Card
The decision to implement controversial basics card was not a community decision that represents the regions’ diverse interests or population.

In August last year, a review of the card was released.

Seventy- seven per cent of participants reported no positive impacts from the trial and 43 per cent said being on the card had no change in their behaviour since the trial began.  

The Greens have also supported a vote against a wider rollout, arguing limiting people’s income is not a way to address the issue of addiction and disadvantage in many Indigenous communities.

“It’s just mind-boggling that the Government continues to push this flawed approach when the evidence shows it doesn’t work.

“Controlling people’s income support will not magically solve problems of addiction. I urge the Labor party to stop trying to sit on both sides of the fence on this issue and help stop the cashless welfare card once and for all,” Green’s Senator Rachel Siewert said.

Although NXT members have shot down the national rollout of the scheme, they have supported the continuation of the trail in the current two sites.

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has welcomed the opposition from the Greens, Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team to the government's proposal of a national rollout.

“People living in Kalgoorlie and the Hinkler region – the two further proposed trial sites - can breathe a sigh of relief because their voices have been heard.

“Their message has been clear. People want to be treated with dignity and respect,” Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS said in a statement.

ACOSS has also joined those calling on the Turnbull government to stop the trials in Ceduna and the Kimberley.

“We are worried that the cashless debit card scheme is causing more harm than good.

“People trying to survive on income support want jobs, not their freedoms restricted nor further stigma attached to their plight,” Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

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 rest goes in the bank and can be withdrawn as cash.

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