PMB – Pensions and Benefits

Monday, 31 July 2023

Mr PITT: The first point I’d make is this: the biggest cashless debit card trial site in this country was my electorate. One of the reason we put that trial in place was that we have multigenerational welfare-dependant people in their thousands. We also have an area which is not predominantly made up of Aboriginal communities, unlike some of the other trial sites. I always love to hear the diatribe from the member from Bruce and I thought that I’d do a couple of quick comparisons. The member for Bruce’s electorate has a median income for the year of $86,944; in my electorate, it’s just $58,396. Approximately five per cent of my community identify as Aboriginal people, and in the electorate of Bruce it’s 0.6 per cent. The idea that he would stand here and rave about something that he has no knowledge of, a community he is not a part of, a community which supports the cashless debit card extensively—not only through research and polling but through two elections. It’s more than 60 per cent supported because it works, and that is the fundamental reason we put it in place.

My community want change. They want change and they saw that change with the CDC trial. Of course it was difficult, it was tough policy and it made some challenges in some areas, but we dealt with them. We actually had people in place to provide support. We put up millions of dollars of additional support through the CDC trial, which actually made a difference. One of the greatest challenges we’ve had is that, locally, anyone—any business, support agency and person who was working with people looking for housing—who put their nose up in the public arena was absolutely belted, particularly online, from activists in Sydney, Melbourne and places where they simply have no impact on the outcomes in my region. I can understand why they don’t want to go on the public record. I met with one just a few weeks ago and I won’t name them for obvious reasons, but they’re involved in placing people in housing. When the CDC was in place, their rent roll was paid, which meant they were able to pay landlords and maintain people in accommodation—people who desperately need it. And now it is not being paid.

We hear from those opposite that they’re going to spend some $300 million plus on a referendum for the Voice in this country. But they wouldn’t listen the voices of the people in the community who were overwhelmingly supportive, from Aboriginal and Indigenous agencies through to people who are frontline service providers. We have lived and breathed this for years, and the reason these people continue to support it is that it works.

We hear about data and statistics. Well, look at your own local plans that you’ve issued just this year, which clearly identify that these things are challenges. We have enormous amounts of individuals—far more than we should—who utilise alcohol as a crutch and abuse and drink at high levels. That is in your statistics from the local plan that you have put out. And by ‘you’, I mean the Labor Party—I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. This is something which, of course, I am incredibly passionate about, as a local member. We hear about privatising welfare. The Labor Party has the same card with the same provider and the same bank, but with $217 million of additional expenditure. At the time of estimates earlier in the year, in my electorate there were 22 people on it, and that has increased enormously to 31. We now have 31. The allegation from the Labor Party is that the coalition privatised welfare. But the Labor Party uses the same provider, the same bank and the same card with the same people, but it has changed colour; it is now blue.

This is the one of the issues that people stop me on the streets in my electorate to talk about, because people support it. I have lost count of the number of grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and parents who said to me, ‘Keep going, because this has made a difference for our kids.’ We saw an enormous reduction in youth unemployment. The police, once again, can’t go on the record, but every time you talk to them they are supportive, because it works and they want to see change.

But we see, under this government, simple, idealistic commitments against things which don’t sit with the Labor Party’s ideologies but are supported locally. Why won’t you listen to local people? Why won’t the Labor Party listen to my community, who have supported this for years? They understand what the challenges are. They know this is not a silver bullet. They know that this won’t change everything overnight. But they want to see change. It’s the reason they send me to this place: to deliver change for them. These are tough but necessary policies. They will never be a silver bullet, but I’m very pleased that Peter Dutton, the member for Dickson and the Leader of the Opposition, has committed to a national rollout of the cashless debit card, because it works.

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