5th June 2018
Later this week National Congress Co-Chair Dr Jackie Huggins AM will participate in a panel discussion on Cashless Debit Cards (‘CDCs’) at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, where she will advocate against the legislation introduced last week by the Federal Minister for Social Services, Dan Tehan, seeking to expand the Government’s CDC trial to Queensland.
The cashless debit cards quarantine 80% of a holder’s income support payments, and ensures that they cannot withdraw cash, or purchase alcohol or gambling products. Currently, trials are underway in the East Kimberley and Karlgoorlie in WA, and in Ceduna in SA. Although the trials were meant to conclude in 2018, they have been extended to mid-2019. Around 80% of people on the CDC are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.
In the government’s Final Evaluation Report of the CDC Trial of Ceduna released in September 2017, 32% of respondents reported that their lives were worse off on the CDC. Many reporting feeling ashamed and stigmatised by the card, and that it disenabled them from participating in the local cash economy. The government has proposed a further evaluation for the program for later this year.
National Congress advocates for the CDC to operate on an “opt-in” basis. This allows the minority of people who see benefits to the CDC to opt-in to the program. “It should be up to the people who want to participate in communities. We are strongly opposed to further rollout unless an opt-in system is put in place, and all trial areas are properly evaluated,” said Rod Little, National Congress Co-Chair.
To date, the trials have cost about $10,000 per participant, or over $25 million in total in administrative fees. The amount spent on financial counselling, drug and alcohol, and family support services – $2.6 million – pales in comparison.
Rather than spending money on the CDC, Mr Little recommends “thorough investment in programmes that support people in managing their money. Our peoples have the right to choose how they spend their money but need to be supported in gaining financial literacy. We also need training programmes to build capacity to gain meaningful employment.”
National Congress has made a number of Parliamentary submissions opposing the CDC trials and will continue to advocate against the proposed legislation to expand the trial.
Media Contact – Sophie Sauerman 02 8070 3100