Constituency Statement – Cashless Debit Card
Mr PITT: I rise to discuss the cashless welfare card legislation, which passed the House and the Senate yesterday to roll out the fourth trial area in this country in the Hinkler electorate. I want to thank a few community members. It has taken 18 months of consultation, debate, legislation and discussions. It couldn’t have been done without the strong support in the community from people like Faye Whiffin, who runs the local community centre in the small town of Howard; Brian Courtice, the former Labor member for Hinkler, who stood on his feet and supported the cashless debit card publicly and very, very vocally; John Russo, in Childers; Tim Sayre, from the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce; Jan Carlson, from We Care 2, a charity in Hervey Bay; Steve Beer and Tanya O’Shea, from IMPACT; Pastor Ross Davey, from Hervey Bay; and our two local newspapers.
It’s not often that you go out and give a rap to your local media, but on this occasion I have to absolutely give my support to the News Mail and the Fraser Coast Chronicle,who took the initiative to pay for a ReachTEL poll to prove there was very strong community support for the cashless debit card in the Hinkler electorate. That poll came back with less than 28 per cent against and, in terms of policies, that is as good as it gets. It was very strongly supported.
It couldn’t have been done without our local welfare workers, church volunteers, pastors, nurses, doctors, teachers and principals who spoke out and sent letters of support to my office. The police spoke out, and, I have to say, to their detriment. They were attacked by their employers, the Queensland Labor government, for simply stating the facts, in their view. Those police had to attend protests and sit in my office while people who were shipped in from other places as activists stood out the front and protested. It is very important that the ambulance officers and, in particular, an emergency ward nurse who put forward her view in an email very strongly are recognised.
Both of our chambers of commerce, in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, and the Childers chamber and all of their business owners, were attacked for simply standing up and giving their point of view. Would you believe that there were people on social media actually declaring these businesses should be boycotted because they support something which will make a huge difference to our electorate.
The Department of Social Services has been on the ground for around 18 months and running extensive consultation. I thank Ministers Tudge, Tehan and Fletcher—it took three ministers to get this done over a period of 18 months. To my staff, who have put up with the threats, the abuse and the really difficult job of going through all the social media posts—which they then had to delete because of the horrible language used; directed not only against me but also against others and individuals in the community—I thank them very much for their support. Finally, I thank the people of Hinkler, because they stood up for change in their region, which is a tough thing to do. It is a difficult policy but a necessary policy, and we will deliver.