Adjournment Debate – Cashless Debit Card

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Mr PITT: I rise to talk about the cashless debit card rollout in my electorate of Hinkler. The legislation for this rollout passed both the House and the Senate last week, and I once again thank those senators who had the courage to make the decision to actually pass the legislation, which affects my community and is absolutely necessary. I also want to put on the record my thanks to a number of individuals locally.

This will sound strange to those opposite, but in particular I thank Brian Courtice. Brian is the former federal Labor member for Hinkler from quite some time ago who stood in his digs, stood in front of a camera, went on ABC Radio and provided comments to the local papers about his support for the cashless debit card rollout. In his words, it was very, very straightforward for him. He is still a Labor member at heart with his social conscience, even though he is the one who was quoted as saying and says that he still stands by his quote that Kevin Rudd couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. He was on board for this from the start, and I’m very, very thankful for his support.

I also thank Faye Whiffin, who runs the Howard Community Centre, in the small community of Howard. Howard is a small town. Faye looks after the local youth. They have a local youth community group who come in. Faye has been concerned for quite some time about what is happening to the children in that town and what steps can be taken.

At the end of the day, this is about action. It is a tough social issue. It is a tough policy. There is no doubt about that, and I have never shied away from the fact that there will be people who are not happy to be on the card. The cashless debit card quarantines 80 per cent of the social services payment for those people under the age of 36—which will affect roughly 6,000 individuals in the Hinkler electorate—if they are on Newstart, parenting payment single, parenting payment partnered or youth allowance (other). Twenty per cent will be provided as cash into their normal account. The reason is quite fundamental. The cashless card cannot be used to purchase alcohol or for gambling or, of course, with the limitation on cash, to purchase illicit substances such as drugs.

Ted Sorensen, the state member for Hervey Bay; David Batt, the state member for Bundaberg; and Steve Bennett, the state member for Burnett, all came out in support of the cashless card. Ted Sorenson had a particularly harrowing tale of a family of children who arrived at his office literally starving. He and his staff had to go and purchase food and provided it to them. He has told me that, over a long period of time, these situations have been getting worse, so we do need to take action.

Over 18 months of consultation, the feedback from our community was that this was about children. It was a real shock to me to hear just what was happening on the ground. When I went to talk to the people who see this on a regular basis—the doctors, the teachers, the school principals, the nurses, the people who work in the emergency department—their feedback to me was that we needed to do something. This was the only policy on the table, and we are delivering it, as we said we would.

But it is not the only thing that we need to take action on. It is not a silver bullet. We need to continue to strengthen our local economy and to provide more local jobs. To do that, the Building Better Regions Fund in my electorate invested $16.3 million in round 1 and another $10 million in round 2, and the Wide Bay Burnett regional jobs and investment package has five projects in Hinkler worth a total of $30.8 million. That will result in 99 construction jobs and, more importantly, 333 ongoing positions. So we are continuing to strengthen our local economy.

Pacific Tug is the recipient of one of these grants. It will build a 1,200-tonne ship lift at the port of Bundaberg. That will create up to 100 positions when it is fully functional. The lift will be of a size that can manage small patrol vessels and, more importantly, the Pacific barge fleet, so there will be opportunities for our local economy to continue to refit and work on those types of ships into the future. It has been slightly delayed because they’ve had some engineering issues with the location. They have now moved to a more suitable site and there is an expectation—I had a discussion with the manager just last week—that the project will be underway in the very short term.

We look forward to that construction process and to all of these projects making a difference to our local economy, but tourism and agriculture continue to be the shining stars. Right now it is whale-watching season in Hervey Bay. More than 20 vessels out of the Hervey Bay marina are providing opportunities for tourists to go and see the whales where they actually come to rest. It is somewhere they stay for a couple of weeks to regather their strength after a very long trip. It’s a fantastic thing to see and do.

In the northern part of the electorate we have all sorts of local producers with tourism facilities, but I want particularly to mention Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, which tomorrow will celebrate its 50th anniversary. It’s a family owned company that is now providing its product internationally—right around the world. It provides hundreds of jobs locally. It’s been such an important part of our local community. I congratulate once again and send my best wishes to Cliff; the CEO, John Maclean; and the rest of the family.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Gee ): I thank the member for Hinkler. We’ll have to get up to Hervey Bay.

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