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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 5984

Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General) (12:24): I thank all of the members for their contributions to the second reading debate stage of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018. The bill, as is now well known, seeks to add the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area as a cashless debit card trial area under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999. The bill specifies trial participants in this site as persons under 36 years receiving Newstart allowance, youth allowance jobseeker, parenting payment single and parenting payment partnered. The trial would cover around 6,700 people in the trial area, and the selection of the cohort in this area has occurred in response to significant consultation with the relevant communities. The bill would allow the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay trial site to operate until 30 June 2020, allowing time to implement the trial and for it to operate for at least 12 months.

The cashless debit card aims to reduce the devastating effects of alcohol, drug and gambling abuse in our communities. The card operates like an ordinary debit card, with the primary difference being that it does not work at liquor stores and gambling houses and cannot be used to withdraw cash. Consequently, illicit products cannot be purchased with the card. The trial restricts what participants can spend their social security payments on but does not detract from the eligibility of a person to receive welfare, nor does it reduce the amount of a person's social security entitlement. The trial of the cashless debit card has been ongoing in Ceduna, South Australia, and in the East Kimberley region, in my home state of Western Australia, for more than two years. In February this year, parliament passed legislation to allow the program to continue in these communities and to be expanded to a third site in the Goldfields area, again in Western Australia, where the trial commenced in March 2018.

The payment types and age group for this site were selected based on extensive consultation by the Department of Social Services. Between May and September 2017, over 188 meetings, including three community information sessions, were held across the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area. These canvassed views from a very broad range of stakeholders, including the community sector, service providers, community members, church groups, the business sector and all levels of government. These meetings demonstrated a clear need for support and intervention in the areas of youth unemployment, young families and intergenerational welfare dependency.

As a result of those meetings with the communities of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, it was clear that many people in those areas wished to tackle the serious issues of youth unemployment and long-term and intergenerational welfare dependency. Ninety per cent of the people in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay under 30 and on Newstart or youth allowance had a parent or guardian who received income support at some point in the previous 15 years. Further still, of that cohort, around 13 per cent had a parent or guardian who had received income support at least once each year for the past 15 years. Further, research by the Australian Research Council indicates that risk factors such as attitudes to work and welfare, attitudes to alcohol and drug consumption and family influences contributed greatly to intergenerational welfare dependency.

The Australian Research Council also found evidence that young people from welfare-dependent families were more likely to smoke, drink alcohol or consume illegal drugs, thus highlighting the relationship that welfare dependence has on a young person's outcomes in life. A stable domestic environment with limited exposure to risk factors during formative years is imperative for positive lifelong outcomes. The cashless debit card can help to stabilise the lives of young people in the new trial locations by limiting spending on alcohol, drugs and gambling and thus improving the chances of young Australians finding employment or successfully completing education or training.

The government has also announced a second evaluation of the cashless debit card across all three current trial sites, to assess the ongoing effectiveness of the program. The second evaluation will use research methodologies developed independently by the University of Queensland and draw on the baseline measurements of social conditions in the Goldfields developed by the University of Adelaide. The initial and positive findings of the impact of the cashless debit card in Ceduna and the East Kimberly have been encouraging. The expansion to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay will help to test the card and the technology that supports it in more diverse communities and settings. This will, of course, build on the evidence available to further evaluate the impacts and outcomes of the cashless debit card on all participants. The government remains committed to rolling this program out to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area and addressing the issues of social and economic disadvantage in those areas.

The SPEAKER: The question is that this bill be now read a second time.