PMB – Cashless Debit Card

Monday, 18 March 2024

Mr PITT: I, of course, move to support the motion by the member for Durack and, in particular, the acknowledgement that it was the Labor government that spent $450 million on a divisive Voice to Parliament, and, not only that, they removed the cashless debit card from trials around the country. I want to acknowledge the work of the members for Grey, Durack and O’Connor because they are the individuals who actually lived through the implementation, the rollout, the development and then the removal of the cashless debit card in their electorates—an actual element which works. It’s a policy that works and a policy that was supported enormously by local communities. We saw the Labor government wanting to implement a voice to parliament across the country, and they’re now, after the defeat of the referendum, talking about local voices, but they won’t listen to the local voices on the cashless debit card. This is a policy which is difficult. It is tough, but it works.

We should look at the reasons we implemented it, particularly in my trial site area of the Hinkler electorate. We started that trial in January 2019. It ended in September 2022 after the Albanese government repealed the legislation. Eighty per cent of recipients’ payments went on the card and 20 per cent into their bank account. The 80 per cent couldn’t be used to buy alcohol, gamble or use illicit substances because recipients didn’t have cash.

Here’s one of the prime reasons we implemented it. In September 2017, when Hinkler was announced as a trial site, the statistics were very, very sobering. Of those who were under 30 on welfare at that time, 90 per cent had a parent who had been also on welfare in the last 15 years—the majority of which were on welfare for at least nine of the last 15 years. Without any intervention, it was projected that 50 per cent of those under 30 on welfare would still be on income support in 10 years time. They are the reasons that we support tough policies, like the cashless debit card—because we are failing the vulnerable in our community. We are failing them, and yet the Labor government has taken away something which works. They ran an enormous scare campaign, and I’ll come to that in a moment.

But, in terms of support, we ran any number of consultations and discussions. It was even tested by the local newspaper with research and polling, and the lowest number I ever saw was 65 per cent support. In fact, it was as high as 70 per cent in some places. Rents were being paid. There were increases in the purchases of food and items for kids. Support organisations were saying that they were handing out less welfare support. These are the things that actually happened on the ground for real people with real kids in real communities.

We saw in March 2023 the Labor Party issue what they call their ‘local services plan’, and guess what it did? It verified the reasons the CDC was rolled out in the first place.

There were five priorities. The first was data sharing. We would have done that, but the Queensland Labor state government wouldn’t give us the data. Next were collaboration; alcohol and drug use and mental health; family and domestic violence; and employment. In 2020 at the state election, the then Palaszczuk government actually committed to building a rehab and a detox facility in Bundaberg. Guess how much of that is built? A duck egg, none, zero, not delivered—construction still hasn’t started.

We are for doing things that matter. We are for moving with policies that will actually make a difference. We see that the Labor Party has now implemented what it calls ‘voluntary income management’, where 50 per cent of the payments go onto a card—and guess what? It’s the same card, with the same provider, with the same technology, operated by the same financial institution—all of the issues that the Labor Party complained about when the coalition was rolling it out. It’s the same. They haven’t changed it. There was a scare campaign that age pensioners would be going onto the CDC. Well, from the most recent data, from 29 December 2023, in the Northern Territory, guess who’s got age pensioners on the cashless debit card? The Labor Party. There are 18 of them. In fact, they’ve got 7,384 individuals in the Northern Territory on the CDC. But, in my electorate, where we had some 6,000, making a real difference, the number is now 16.

I’ve had a look at the complaints from the Labor Party right through the campaign and all the way through previous terms of government. They were all about how much this card cost per individual. Can you imagine the differential between 6,000 on the card, in terms of participants, and 16? It is enormous. It is absolutely outrageous that those opposite would run a campaign based on elements which they themselves then delivered. They have put age pensioners on the cashless debit card. They have used the same provider. They have used the same technology. The only difference is that there are 7,000 individuals now in the Northern Territory using the CDC. If the coalition are returned to government, we will reinstate the cashless debit card.

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