Adjournment Debate – Cashless Debit Card

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Mr PITT: Is there any other greater indicator of the hopelessness of this Labor government, of how its ideology overrules common sense, and of how it is directed by the socialist alliance, the left, than the cancellation of the cashless debit card in the mandatory trial sites around this country? We warned the Labor government what would happen if they took away these trials. We know they worked. We know they had good outcomes and community. Yet they ignored all of that advice, including from the people in the community. It was incredibly strongly supported because it worked and people wanted to actually do something and get an outcome. One of the great challenges that we had in government was trying to secure data from state governments, particularly the Palaszczuk government in Queensland, who simply refused to participate and wouldn’t provide the data that we needed to provide indicators. But, lo and behold, last week in the Senate we saw a document tabled very quietly—not a lot of hoo-ha, not a lot of noise—demonstrating the serious challenges inside the trial site in my electorate that were being addressed by the cashless debit card before those in government now dumped it. It’s called the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay Local Service Plan. It had absolutely no detail on what the intention was to address the challenges, but it certainly listed them all. How will these long-standing issues in the community be addressed? Well, we don’t really have too much on that.

Almost everything that was in the Local Service Plan had already been identified. It was why we were doing the trial. It’s why we introduced it, it’s why it worked and it’s why the community supported it. Labor has abolished it, and we’ve seen this report saying, ‘Yes, there are significant issues.’ What I want to know from the minister is: how much worse are these issues now? Because what it looks like on the ground is that it is much worse, and the reports from my colleagues in the other three trial sites are that it has been diabolical—absolutely diabolical. We knew about these problems five years ago. That is why we had over 6,000 individuals in the Hinkler trial site on the cashless debit card—it was different to the other trials—and what we’ve seen now is a Labor government who are spending more than $200 million. These are people who made all sorts of outrageous claims during the election, including that the coalition had privatised welfare, that they had gotten an Indue provider as a bank who apparently was no good, but we received the replacement card, the SmartCard, which I’m told has changed colour, provided by, guess who? The same bank—exactly the same provider. This Labor government, under their own rules, have now privatised welfare. Instead of 6,000 participants getting better outcomes, for over $200 million spent in my electorate, Mr Speaker, would you believe there are 22 for a $200 million expenditure? The plan, according to the government, is committed to extending existing support services and delivering a range of new initiatives, but guess what? There aren’t any, and there’s no money for it. It’s great to have a plan. They’ve identified some priorities, including collating data. Guess what? We asked for that too, for years, and ensuring local service providers work together. Well, they do. It’s how we get better outcomes.

Here are some good numbers, Mr Speaker, which I’m sure you’ve heard before. Regarding concerns about alcohol and other drug use, the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service notes that 37.6 per cent of adults in the region were risky drinkers and need rehab and detox facilities. The state government made a commitment in 2020 to provide that, and more mental health support, and they haven’t even started out. There is an increase in family and domestic violence incidents, and a demand for services is identified in the local service plan as well as a waitlist for support services for families and children who are experiencing family violence blowing up.

Issues around unemployment include intergenerational unemployment and welfare dependency, unwillingness to work, and a mismatch between skills and applicant skills, leaving a significant number of vacant jobs. We know—my community knows. It’s why they supported such a tough policy. They wanted to change the situation locally.

The Minister for Social Services needs to tell my community how the government intends to address these issues, not just a plan for a plan. How much is it going to cost—not just for the 22 individuals who are now on the new card, which is the same card but a different colour? Labor should get away from their ideology and do things that work that are supported by community.

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