Cashless card inquiry to report on expansion

Cashless card inquiry to report on expansion

A Senate inquiry into the continuation and expansion of the cashless debit card is due to report next week.

Submissions have been received for the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020, with the inquiry to be heard on Tuesday.

The decision to make the card permanent was made as part of last month's 2020 federal budget and a bill was introduced to parliament a day later.

When introducing the bill, federal government minister Trevor Evans said the card was "delivering significant benefits for the communities where it currently operates".

Yet the bill has been met with opposition, with Labor's Shadow Families and Social Services Minister Linda Burney claiming on Friday the government had failed to prove the card was effective.

Researchers from the University of South Australia and Monash University found in a recent study utilising data from Ceduna that there had been no "substantive impact on measures of gambling and intoxicant abuse", but it did note there had been an increased spend on healthy foods.

The study also indicated the impacts on crime and emergency department presentations "were not substantively found", concluding that targeting individual choices "may not be as effective as policies targeting the historical social structures that serve as antecedents to such social pathologies".

The inquiry committee has received 145 submissions from individuals and organisations.

Former Ceduna mayor Allan Suter is among those to have made a submission, in which he noted the introduction of the card trial in 2016 was a turning point for the town, after years of various initiatives that "were of limited value".

"The use of the card did not solve every facet of this problem however it made dramatic improvements to so many lives," he wrote.

"It is fair to say that I remain very proud of the way that our community responded and thus am a strong supporter of the good that the card has generated."

Macquarie University's Eve Vincent spent time in Ceduna as part of her study on 'lived experiences of the Cashless Debit Card trial, Ceduna, South Australia' and said in her submission that her research highlighted "the disempowering effects of a social policy perceived by many of my research participants to be race-based and punitive".

"Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal research participants expressed their frustration that the trial was designed in ways that were intended to obscure its racial dimensions: they pointed out that the Cashless Debit Card's wider remit was necessary so as not to seem racist," she wrote.

The expansion of the card would see more than 25,000 additional recipients in the Northern Territory and Cape York region join about 12,000 already on the card in the trial sites.

This story Cashless card inquiry to report on expansion first appeared on West Coast Sentinel.