All changes made to the description and title of this division.

View division | Edit description

Change Division
representatives vote 2018-06-21#8

Edited by mackay staff

on 2018-06-23 14:15:37


  • Bills — Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018; Second Reading
  • Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 - Second Reading - Agree with bill's main idea


  • <p class="speaker">Linda Burney</p>
  • <p>I rise to speak on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018. This bill proposes to extend the cashless debit card trial to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. If this bill is successful, all recipients of Newstart, youth allowance, parenting payments and other payments in the electorate of Hinkler, and who are under 36, will be forced to become trial participants. They will be forced. The cashless debit card quarantines 80 per cent of an income support payment onto a special debit card that cannot be used to purchase alcohol, gamble or buy gift cards that could, in turn, be used to purchase alcohol or gamble. It is expected that around 6,700 people in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay would become trial participants.</p>
  • <p>Labor does not support this bill. As we've said many times now, Labor supports genuine community driven initiatives to tackle drug and alcohol abuse. We believe they must be genuinely community driven, not driven from the top down. Labor does not believe in a blanket approach to income management. We do not support a national rollout of the cashless debit card. Let me repeat that, because I know there is a lot of misinformation on social media about this issue. Let me be very, very clear: Labor does not support any nationwide rollout of the cashless debit card.</p>
  • The majority voted in favour of the bill's main idea, which is to expand the trials for the cashless debit card to other places.
  • In parliamentary jargon, this vote was a vote to read the bill [for a second time]( and, because it was successful, means that the House can now discuss the bill in more detail.
  • ### What is the bill's main idea?
  • The [bill was introduced to](;query=Id:legislation/billhome/r6130):
  • * *expand the cashless debit card arrangements to a further trial site, the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area, to run until 30 June 2020;*
  • * *specify the class of trial participants for the area and increase the total number of trial participants overall to 15 000;*
  • * *provide for an exception from the restrictive trade practices provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 for merchants that implement product level blocking systems to identify that a cashless debit card is being used for payment and, if any restricted products are being purchased, decline the transaction; and*
  • * *limit the use of the restricted portion of a payment to prevent the portion being used to obtain cash-like products which could be used to obtain alcohol or gambling.*
  • <p>Labor understands that the vast majority of income support recipients are more than capable of managing their own finances. We understand that income management simply isn't necessary for many people. Labor has said all along that it will talk to individual communities and make decisions on a location-by-location basis. After hearing the evidence presented to the Senate inquiry, and speaking with people in Bundaberg, it is absolutely clear that the community in Bundaberg do not want to be part of this trial of the cashless debit card. They do not want it in their town.</p>
  • <p>The mayors of both local government areas in the trial region&#8212;Bundaberg and the Fraser Coast shire&#8212;oppose the introduction of the cashless debit card in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. That is a very important point that Labor has considered in our decision. The Mayor of Bundaberg, former LNP stalwart and Queensland state minister Jack Dempsey, says his community has turned against the cashless debit trial after learning the cost. Key groups from the Bundaberg region felt ignored by the government's consultation process on this issue. This is another really important point we have considered.</p>
  • <p>Representatives from the Gidarjil Development Corporation explained that Gidarjil is probably the largest Indigenous organisation in Bundaberg and there hasn't been any approach on any matter, including the rollout of this trial, from the federal minister. That is a very telling fact&#8212;top down. Representatives from a community advocacy group in Bundaberg explained to the Senate inquiry that there has been little to no public consultation, and what consultation has taken place has been done behind closed doors.</p>
  • <p>Labor will only consider the introduction of a new trial site if the Liberals can show that they have agreed formal consultation processes with the community, as well as an agreed definition of consent. The flawed evaluation is another important point to consider. On top of that, the ORIMA evaluation into the effectiveness of the existing trials in Ceduna and East Kimberley is inconclusive at best. The evaluation has been criticised by leading academics, and there is insufficient credible evidence at this point to support the establishment of further trials.</p>
  • <p>Janet Hunt, the Deputy Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University, said the evaluation showed that the cashless debit card had not actually improved safety and violence, despite that being one of the trial's objectives. Hunt is critical of the methodology used in the ORIMA evaluation. She argues that people interviewed for the evaluation may have told interviewers that they drank less than when the trial began but that such recall over a year is not likely to be very reliable. Furthermore, people had to give their identification to the interviewer. They may have said exactly what they thought the interviewer wanted to hear. They certainly would not have incriminated themselves. This is particularly true for the Aboriginal population, who, for historical reasons, are likely to view authority figures with deep suspicion.</p>
  • <p>Yet last year the former Minister for Human Services described the cashless debit card trials as a huge success. And the Prime Minister himself has said that the card has seen a massive reduction in alcohol abuse, drug abuse, domestic violence and violence generally. But Janet Hunt made it clear that this was not the case. She stated that 'someone needs to tell them that the report does not say these things at all'. This is important because the government's argument for expanding the rollout of this card rests very heavily on this evaluation. When participants were asked about the impact of the trial on their children's lives, only 17 per cent reported feeling their lives were better as a result. To be very frank, I thought the ORIMA evaluation was substandard and I don't believe any government should be making significant policy decisions off the back of such poor-quality evaluation. Labor will only consider the further expansion of the cashless debit card trial sites when there is much greater evidence&#8212;and credible evidence&#8212;of its effectiveness.</p>
  • <p>The cost of the rollout of the cashless debit card is a very important consideration in this debate. We know that the government has already paid $7.9 million to the debit card provider, Indue, and almost $1.6 million to ORIMA Research to provide a poor-quality evaluation. That is well over $8 million in total. Labor understands that the current accrued cost of the cashless debit card trial is around $24 million for the two sites to 15 March 2018. That is over $10,000 per head.</p>
  • <p>There is a better way to achieve the objectives, and it is quite extraordinary that we are debating this bill today without any indication from the minister about how much it will cost taxpayers to roll out the card at Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. In fact, they still haven't said how much the trial at the Goldfields is costing, despite the fact that the trial has been operating there since early May. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a local council in Bundaberg did a survey which showed that when locals were told how much the trial program would cost to administer, support for the trial in the community dropped to just 26 per cent. So the government are deliberately avoiding telling us the cost per head for political reasons. This is simply unacceptable. The government must say how much the trial at Bundaberg-Hervey Bay will cost, as well as the costs for the trials in the Goldfields in Western Australia.</p>
  • <p>It is important to note that Labor supported the initiation of trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley, and supports them continuing until mid-2019 to allow more time for a reliable evaluation to determine whether they have been successful. In April last year, the shadow minister for human services, Jenny Macklin, and I went to the East Kimberley to meet with community leaders in Kununurra and Wyndham. We met with the Waringarri, Binarri-binyja yarrawoo, Gawooleng Yawoodeng and Ngonowar-Aerwah Aboriginal corporations, along with the Wunan Foundation, Kununurra hospital, St John Ambulance services, Kununurra police, the Moongong Sobering Up Shelter, East Kimberley Job Pathways and the then Department for Child Protection and Family Support&#8212;a fairly significant consultation in anyone's estimation.</p>
  • <p>The feedback we received on the cashless card in the East Kimberley was mixed. Some people were in favour of the card and others were strongly opposed. Many people thought the card was just worth trialling. Ian Truss, head of the Wunan Foundation, described the card as a potential circuit-breaker for his people. St John Ambulance in Kununurra said the call-outs for alcohol related violence had gone down. At a Senate inquiry, the Western Australia Police Force released data on domestic assaults. The 12 months to 30 June 2017 saw 508 domestic assaults in Kununurra. For the 12 months previous to that, 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, there were 319. Now, that is an increase.</p>
  • <p>I also had the opportunity to visit the women's refuge in Kununurra and to talk to some of the women staying there. They did not have a positive view of the cashless card. They told us that life had gotten harder with the card, that there was more violence and more crime as cash had become scarce. Others said that the sly grog trade meant that there were ways that people could easily get around the card if they wanted to buy grog.</p>
  • <p>A common sentiment that I heard across the week was that things were so bad in the local community that they were willing to give anything a go. Essentially, they supported the cashless card not out of hope but out of despair.</p>
  • <p>We've continued talking with people in the local community in the period since our formal consultation. So Labor takes a very clear-eyed view of this issue. We are not being ideological in our approach to this issue. We have a set of guiding principles and that determines our position on this debate.</p>
  • <p>In summary, Labor does not support this bill. We don't support the expansion of the card to Bundaberg and the Hervey Bay area. The evidence presented to the Senate inquiry, as well as our own consultations, shows that people in the community of Bundaberg do not want the cashless debit card in their town. As I said, mayors of both local areas in the trial region&#8212;Bundaberg and Fraser Coast shires&#8212;publicly oppose the introduction of the cashless debit card in Bundaberg-Hervey Bay.</p>
  • <p>The ORIMA evaluation into the effectiveness of the existing trials, which the government relies on so heavily, is inconclusive at best. And I have to say that I have read, very closely, that evaluation, and it is of a poor quality. It certainly should not be relied on by the government and it should not be misrepresented by the government as some raging success. The government knows very well that it is not. It says clearly that the card has had no effect, particularly in terms of violence in those communities.</p>
  • <p>Labor believes that there is currently insufficient credible evidence to support the establishment of further trials. Labor will only consider the introduction of a new trial site if the government can show that it has an agreed, formal consultation process with the community as well as an agreed definition of 'consent'. That is Labor's position. It is completely reasonable, if such dramatic changes are going to be made to so many people in that community, that there be a bottom-up approach so that it is owned by the community, not a top-down approach as we have seen here. Certainly, there has to be support from the local community. Labor opposes this bill.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>