More than 6000 welfare recipients in Queensland have been forced onto the cashless welfare debit card after the government expanded the controversial program to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions.
The card – designed to prevent those receiving benefits from spending money on alcohol, illegal drugs or gambling – has already been trialled in the Kimberly region in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia.
This is the first time the program has been tested in an urban area.
Last year, the Australian government defended the $18 million cashless welfare card trial despite an audit released finding there was “inadequate” evidence to show it reduced social harm.
The scheme has not been explicitly targeted at Indigenous Australians, but they are disproportionately affected.
The government has promised to expand the program further and is reportedly considering rolling the program out in the Sydney suburb of Blacktown and the Melbourne suburb of Frankston.
Speaking at a town meeting in Bundaberg, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten promised to shut down the entire scheme if he won the next election.
"I can't unscramble the egg of what this government does, but what we can do if elected, is we will do what we can to roll it back," he said.