The powerful Central Land Council has urged the federal government not to pursue plans to force Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory onto cashless debit cards, saying current tough alcohol measures are already working.
The government plans to place nearly 22,500 unemployed people - 87 per cent of them in the Northern Territory - onto the cashless debit cards already being compulsorily trialled on 11,700 people in Ceduna, East Kimberley, the Goldfields, and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.
The cards quarantine about half a person's welfare payments so they can only spend it at approved places and not on goods such as alcohol, gambling and illicit drugs.
The cards were "harsh and punitive" on people whether or not they abused alcohol in the view of the CLC, which has 90 elected delegates representing more than 24,000 Indigenous people in the southern part of the NT, a Senate inquiry in Alice Springs heard.
"The overwhelming message from the council is that compulsory income management is harsh and punitive and treats all people on income support as though they are a burden to society, unable to manage their lives or care for their families," said Josie Douglas, the CLC's manager of policy research.
The mostly Indigenous people in the NT who will be subject to the cashless cards are already on compulsory income management through basics cards but opponents say the policy had failed to reduce abuse or violence.
Some Kimberley Indigenous leaders asked former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 for welfare quarantining to protect children from drunk adults.
Federal Families and Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher had the power to quarantine up to 100 per cent of a person's income with the new cards, said NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, who sits on the Senate committee.
"The evidence that's coming through from human rights groups finds that very concerning," she said.
However the introduction by the NT government of the Riley Review reforms such as an alcohol floor price and permanent police presence at bottle shops last year had been more effective, Ms Douglas added.
Other reforms included a banned drinkers register.
There had been a 26 per cent decrease in alcohol-related assaults and 21 per cent decrease in domestic violence incidents in the NT, according to government figures cited by the CLC.
"There has been tellingly a reduction of women presenting with defensive fractures as well as drunk patients to the emergency department at Alice Springs," CLC senior policy officer Georgie Stewart said.