The majority voted in favour of a motion to pass the bill, as amended, in the Senate. In parliamentary jargon, they voted to read the bill for a third time. This means it will now be sent back to the House of Representatives, where they will decide on whether to agree with the Senate amendments so the bill can become law.

What does the bill do?

The bills digest provided the following key points on the bill:

  • Enhanced Income Management (eIM) is a hybrid welfare quarantining regime which has replaced the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) regime. The Bill proposes to also replace the existing Income Management (IM) regime with eIM. Welfare quarantining restricts the way a portion of a social security recipient’s payment can be spent.

  • eIM is a hybrid regime in that it reflects the policy and legislative framework of the existing IM regime but uses an identical technology platform as the CDC regime to operate.

  • The Bill proposes to:

  • extend the eIM regime to include all the measures currently covered by the existing IM regime

  • allow individuals currently subject to the IM regime to voluntarily move onto the eIM regime

  • close the existing IM regime to new entrants and move all new individuals subject to welfare quarantining onto the eIM.

  • The Bill will allow the Minister to extend eIM compulsory and voluntary measures to new locations via legislative instrument, although the Explanatory Memorandum states there is no intention to expand the ‘Long-term welfare payment’, ‘Disengaged youth’ and voluntary measures.

  • The Government does not appear to have settled on a long-term plan for the future of welfare quarantining. The Government has stated its preferred option is a voluntary welfare quarantining scheme (except in Cape York) with the option to allow for communities to make referrals for compulsory welfare quarantining. A consultation process is ongoing.

How is this SmartCard different to the Cashless Debit Card (or Indue Card)?

Short answer: we're not sure.

The parliamentary library included a good discussion of the similarities and differences of the different welfare quarantining systems in the bills digest, but noted that:

This Bills Digest was produced at short notice to assist early consideration of the Bill. It provides an overview of some of the policy issues raised by the Bill as well as background information to help readers understand the policy context. The Digest does not include a detailed discussion of the Bill’s provisions nor does it canvass the views of stakeholders.

When comparing the systems, the bills digest explained the differences the following way:

The platform is essentially identical to the one used in the CDC regime. Former CDC participants will have the same welfare restricted bank account and can continue to use the same card. Eventually, CDC participants will be issued with a new card. This will look different and will have a new name: the ‘SmartCard’. As with the CDC and the BasicsCard, the banking services attached to the SmartCard—including the bank account itself, the physical card and the connection to financial systems—are provided by Indue. DSS officials told Senate Estimates in February that those moved from the CDC to eIM would keep the same bank account.

As the Traditional Credit Union (TCU) explains to card holders, restrictions on the card have changed (a policy change) but the differences between the CDC and the new SmartCard are its colour and its name. The new restrictions are pornography and tobacco purchases (restricted under IM but not the CDC).

One further difference is that no interest is accrued on funds in the restricted bank account.

The Bill brings all the existing IM measures into the new eIM regime’s legislative framework. One feature of this, is the ability of the Minister to add new locations through a legislative instrument. Unlike the CDC regime, there is no sunset clause and no need for the Minister to amend the Act to expand eIM.

With the Bill’s proposed amendments, the eIM regime has the potential to be easier for Government to expand than either IM or the CDC. It will combine IM’s less restrictive legislative framework with the CDC easier to expand platform.

Votes Passed by a modest majority

Nobody rebelled against their party.

Party Votes
Australian Greens (100% turnout) 0 Yes 11 No
Penny Allman-Payne Queensland No
Dorinda Cox WA No
Mehreen Faruqi NSW No
Sarah Hanson-Young SA No
Nick McKim Tasmania No
Barbara Pocock SA No
Janet Rice Victoria No
David Shoebridge NSW No
Jordon Steele-John WA No
Larissa Waters Queensland No
Peter Whish-Wilson Tasmania No
Australian Labor Party (72% turnout) 18 Yes 0 No
Tim Ayres NSW Yes
Catryna Bilyk Tasmania Yes
Carol Brown Tasmania Yes
Anthony Chisholm Queensland Yes
Raff Ciccone Victoria Yes
Don Farrell SA Yes
Nita Green Queensland Yes
Malarndirri McCarthy NT Yes
Deborah O'Neill NSW Yes
Fatima Payman WA Yes
Helen Polley Tasmania Yes
Louise Pratt WA Yes
Tony Sheldon NSW Yes
Marielle Smith SA Yes
Glenn Sterle WA Yes
Anne Urquhart Tasmania Yes
Jess Walsh Victoria Yes
Linda White Victoria Yes
Patrick Dodson WA Absent
Katy Gallagher ACT Absent
Karen Grogan SA Absent
Jenny McAllister NSW Absent
Jana Stewart Victoria Absent
Murray Watt Queensland Absent
Penny Wong SA Absent
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price NT Country Liberal Party Absent
Andrew McLachlan SA Deputy President Absent
David Pocock ACT Independent Yes
Lidia Thorpe Victoria Independent No
David Van Victoria Independent Absent
Jacqui Lambie Network (100% turnout) 2 Yes 0 No
Jacqui Lambie Tasmania Yes
Tammy Tyrrell Tasmania Yes
Liberal National Party (0% turnout) Absent
Matthew Canavan Queensland Absent
James McGrath Queensland Absent
Liberal Party (22% turnout) 5 Yes 0 No
Claire Chandler Tasmania Yes
David Fawcett SA Yes
Jane Hume Victoria Yes
Matt O'Sullivan WA Yes
Anne Ruston SA Yes
Alex Antic SA Absent
Wendy Askew Tasmania Absent
Simon Birmingham SA Absent
Andrew Bragg NSW Absent
Slade Brockman WA Absent
Michaelia Cash WA Absent
Richard Colbeck Tasmania Absent
Jonathon Duniam Tasmania Absent
Sarah Henderson Victoria Absent
Hollie Hughes NSW Absent
Maria Kovacic NSW Absent
Kerrynne Liddle SA Absent
James Paterson Victoria Absent
Marise Payne NSW Absent
Gerard Rennick Queensland Absent
Linda Reynolds WA Absent
Paul Scarr Queensland Absent
Dean Smith WA Absent
National Party (0% turnout) Absent
Ross Cadell NSW Absent
Perin Davey NSW Absent
Susan McDonald Queensland Absent
Bridget McKenzie Victoria Absent
Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party (0% turnout) Absent
Pauline Hanson Queensland Absent
Malcolm Roberts Queensland Absent
Sue Lines WA President Absent
Ralph Babet Victoria United Australia Party Yes
Totals (51% turnout) 27 Yes – 12 No