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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14847


Ms McBRIDE (Dobell) (13:14): I rise to speak on the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management and Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019, which has been amended and returned from the Senate. We saw in the Senate last night the government accept Labor's amendments to let people get off this card. They have finally admitted that the way they have rolled out the bill is unfair and unreasonable. Labor have consistently expressed serious concerns about the cashless debit card, and we have consistently opposed its rollout nationally. It's encouraging to see the government recognise that there are serious concerns to be had about the card. There is simply no evidence that this card works, and the government has botched its own assessment of the card.

We know that in many instances participants are unable to purchase essential items at more affordable prices. Labor's amendments will mitigate the arbitrary impacts that this card has on participants. Why should someone who can demonstrate responsible management of finances be subjected to this card? Why should someone who is making an effort to look for a job, to seek work and to get back into the workforce be subjected to this card? As it has been rolled out, it is unreasonable and unfair. Why should someone who is at risk of homelessness—vulnerable people—be put in this precarious situation? Children should also be protected from the impacts of this card. Labor's amendments provide an opportunity for people who do the right thing or people vulnerable to the impacts of this card to opt out. As we have reiterated time and time again, Labor has serious concerns about the impact of this card. This bill, as amended, both mitigates against those impacts and ensures continuity of support for these communities.

Looking forward, as I've mentioned, Labor has never supported the rollout of the cashless debit card nationally, and now the government has finally recognised that there are serious problems with the rollout, serious problems with the way it has been implemented and serious problems with the evaluation. Labor does not support the expansion of the cashless debit card and this form of income management to new communities unless the community wants the card and there is informed community consent.

I had the chance to speak about this when the bill came to the House earlier. As I said at the time, we don't believe in a blanket approach to income management. We do not support the rollout of a national cashless debit card. We believe that most recipients of income support are more than capable of managing their own finances. Labor has said all along that we will talk to individual communities and make decisions on a location-by-location basis. I am pleased to see that the amendments that the member for Barton has put have been accepted by the government. There are so many flaws in this unreasonable and unfair rollout. There are so many vulnerable individuals and communities that are unfairly impacted by this.

Hopefully, what we will see in the future is a much more reasonable and fair approach as most recipients of income support are more than capable of managing their own finances and more than capable of making decisions on behalf of their household and on behalf of their communities. What we need to see is proper consultation. What we need to see is an evidence based approach that works in the interests of people living within those communities. What we really need to see is community control—that any decisions are community led. I come from a background in health and mental health. I come from an area where there are many people within our Indigenous community who are making great strides forward, particularly in Aboriginal community-controlled health. There are excellent examples in my community and elsewhere across Australia where we have seen evidence-based, community-controlled, community-led approaches, and I think that's what we need to see.

I thank the member for Barton for putting these amendments, and I look forward to them being accepted by the House.

Question agreed to.