PMB – Cashless Debit Card
Mr PITT: Labor’s proposition on the cashless debit card is pretty straightforward. They intend to remove it, and they will replace it—and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at this, Mr Deputy Speaker—with nothing, with absolutely nothing! In fact, we had some $30 million in additional support services committed to those trial sites, and yet the minister will not commit to continuing that funding—$30 million worth of services. I will give those opposite an opportunity here, because I think they’ve just been significantly misinformed. I am sure it’s just straight off the talking points.
I have in front of me table 3.4, ‘Assessment of 2020–21 performance measures for the Cashless Debit Card’ of the ANAO report. Guess what it says. There are four columns, headed ‘Reliable (data)’, ‘Verifiable (method)’, ‘Free from bias’ and ‘Related’. The first item is the ‘extent to which the CDC supports a reduction in social harm in communities’. The report finds that it ‘fully and/or mostly meets requirements’. The report actually says it meets the requirements for reduction in social harm in communities. The second item is the ‘extent to which participants are using their CDC to direct income support payments to essential goods and services, including to support the wellbeing of the participant.’ Guess what. It ‘fully and/or mostly meets requirements’ in the areas ‘Reliable (data)’ and ‘Related’, but unfortunately not in ‘Verifiable (method)’ or ‘Free from bias’. If you read the report, you see that it is scathing of the department for not doing what the minister directed. They simply didn’t do the work. So what is being put forward by those opposite is complete nonsense. It is just not true. We have a report that supports the rollout of the CDC and that supports the trials in the areas in which they are in place, because it makes a difference.
For those opposite who may or may not live in a city, who may or may not live in an area where these are very difficult issues, we have communities that simply want action. I am pleased to see the member for Grey here. He was first out of the gates. It is a very tough issue; it is incredibly difficult, but we have a Labor Party that is absolutely bound to idealistic views. They are not bound to get an outcome; it is all about idealism. It is all about the Socialist Alliance. It’s all about the people from Sydney or Melbourne. It is us that have to live in these communities. The reason it is supported is that it actually works.
We hear all this stuff about how they have consulted with the community, as they committed to during the election campaign before making any changes. I’ll tell you what the consultation looked like in my electorate before we rolled this out. The Department of Social Services conducted over 188 meetings in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. This included five meetings with Commonwealth government agencies, 19 with community members, three with community reference groups, two large community meetings with the public, 25 with local government reps, four with peak bodies and 55 with service providers. My office alone contacted 32,000 constituents to get an indication of their views before the trial was even put forward. That’s a pretty big proportion of 107,000 voters. We sent 32,000 individuals direct mail, we phone polled 500 people and we sent 5½ thousand direct emails, and, would you believe, the feedback we had was 75 per cent support. The media did not believe that, so they did what was known as a ReachTEL poll, which I’m sure those opposite have heard of. Guess what? There were 27.8 per cent that were opposed—that’s all. They know it makes a difference. They know it is tough; it is difficult policy. But they put it in place and they support it in the community because it works.
We keep hearing about people being able to spend their own money. This is taxpayer support for individuals who are in a very difficult position. Are those opposite seriously suggesting that more than 20 per cent of an individual’s payment, whether it’s from Newstart or others, should be spent on grog? Is that what you’re saying? We are providing 20 per cent in cash. People can do whatever they like with it, but they cannot spend all of their money down at the grog shop, down at the pub, down at the bottle-o or use it for the purchase of illicit substances or gambling products.
Once again, we see those opposite bringing up the great scare campaign about pensioners. Well, every individual that has raised that in the House should stand up and make an apology, because one of your own—the state member of Keppel, Brittany Lauga—was forced to apologise in the Queensland Legislative Assembly on 24 February 2022 for misleading that house on claims she made on 30 November 2021 about pensioners being put on the CDC. It was wrong, it was untrue and it was used as a scare campaign. Those opposite continue to raise it in this place, and they should make an apology because it is false and misleading.
Once again, it is the constituents who live in regional areas who will be impacted. It is those individuals who have strongly supported the rollout because it makes a difference. They know it doesn’t fix all ills, they know it doesn’t fix all evils, but they know that it makes change, and change is what we are about in this place. It was a change for the positive and should be supported.