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Community Affairs Legislation Committee

BAXTER, Dr Roslyn, Group Manager, Families Group, Department of Social Services

EDWARDS, Ms Caroline, First Assistant Secretary, Community Safety and Policy, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

JOHNSTON, Mr Mathew, Executive Manager, Welfare Debit Card Taskforce, Department of Social Services

MATTHEWS, Mr Gavin, Assistant Secretary, Community Safety Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


CHAIR: Welcome. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. I remind witnesses that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. I now invite you to make a short opening statement, and then we will move to questions.

Dr Baxter : We will be putting in a written submission, but we do not need to make an opening statement today.

CHAIR: We have heard evidence expressing concerns about how this debit card would work. Could someone talk us through the details of how it will work and then we can ask questions as we go. I am sure other senators will have questions on some of the technical details of how it will be rolled out.

Ms Edwards : It might be worth explaining briefly what our respective roles are to help senators ask their questions; although we will obviously redirect them as required. The Department of Social Services is the lead on the debit card and will have all of the information on the technical details of how the card works and all of the general policy and legislation and so on. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet are here to assist because we are responsible for assisting with some of the on-the-ground consultation to do with Indigenous people, who are part, but obviously not the whole, of the people who might be affected by a trial.

Dr Baxter : I might kick off with that question and then, if we need some more detail, I will throw to Mathew. The cashless debit card trial is set up to help confirm whether limiting the proportion of welfare payments that are available to be spent on drugs, alcohol and gambling helps to reduce social harm in communities, particularly communities with high welfare dependence and problems associated with those issues. In particular it is seeking to test whether restricting a higher proportion of the welfare payments across a broader group of welfare recipients improves the level of community functioning. That is what the trial is set up to do.

The key feature of the trial is the concept of a restricted bank account that has an associated cashless debit card attached to it. That card would look and operate like a normal banking card and would work at all shops except those that are selling the restricted products of either alcohol products or gambling services. It will also not be able to be used to withdraw cash. A commercial financial institution would be responsible for providing both the accounts and the debit cards, and trial participants would become customers of that financial institution. In essence it would work like the relationship between any bank and its customer. The Department of Human Services would have a reduced role in the trial.

That financial institution would be responsible for providing all services, general account inquiries, forgotten PINS, replacement cards and handling complaints. There would be a number of services available to support people who would be using the restricted debit card, including online services, access to mobile apps and SMS, if people need to receive extra account balances that way. To all intents and purposes the idea is that it would operate like a normal banking product. Eighty per cent of a person's welfare payments would be placed onto the restricted card, with the remaining 20 per cent going to their usual banking account and operating as they do normally.

CHAIR: I have a couple of questions flowing from that. You talked about SMS and apps and services. Is there a specific budgeting app that would be associated with it, or would it just be the usual things that are offered by financial institutions?

Dr Baxter : We are anticipating that there will be financial and budgeting support services offered as part of the trial sites, but the app itself does not contain a budgeting support component.

Mr Johnston : That is right, but there would be functionality online which would be helping people set particular limits, if they want to set up direct deductions and those kinds of things that could help with building some of that budgeting capacity as well.

CHAIR: Did you say that it would be a choice of financial institution for the individual?

Dr Baxter : I said that peoples' unrestricted account would continue to be at their normal financial institutions, and they would continue to retain all of the choice for that element of their welfare payments.

CHAIR: Then for the restricted account?

Dr Baxter : For the restricted account, they would be issued with a debit card. We are still in negotiations and conversations with financial institutions as to the exact arrangements of how that will operate. So we cannot talk to the exact nature of how that would operate.

Senator SIEWERT: We do not know which bank?

Dr Baxter : No, we are not able to talk about which institution, at this stage, as we are still going through negotiations, and they are all commercial-in-confident.

Senator MOORE: We cannot talk about cost?

Dr Baxter : No, we cannot talk about the cost at this stage.

Senator SIEWERT: When can we? Will we know before we are actually asked to vote on this legislation?

Mr Johnston : As we said in the June estimates, the costs for the trial of the cashless debit card are contained in the contingency reserve, so it has been appropriated through the budget. It is sitting in the contingency reserve subject to the conclusion of commercial negotiations. In terms of that time frame—

Dr Baxter : We do not have a set time frame at the moment on when the commercial negotiations will conclude. We cannot talk about the nature of those negotiations until that is finalised.

Senator SIEWERT: We are being asked to vote on legislation, potentially, when these sorts of things are unknown?

Dr Baxter : That is right. There is material available in the previous budget documents, but the exact nature of the costs at this stage is still—

Senator SIEWERT: We will not go through that again because we have traversed that.

CHAIR: It is not really a question for the officials to answer; ministers can answer that. Another issue that has been raised is around rent. Are you able to talk us through how it would work in practice for people who might live in a group home—there is cash, there is a bit of a transfer here and there? How would the debit card work in those circumstances?

Dr Baxter : Individuals who are seeking to pay rent from the restricted proportion of their welfare payments would still be able to do so. There are two main pathways. One is that they can still use any Centrepay deductions; they would still be able to be set-up for them to pay rent through the normal pathways. The second is that they would be able to pay via the online mechanisms, and they could do that either through an existing Bpay account, or informal rent payments will also be able to be made to an unrestricted bank account. For example, if they were lodging in a private boarding situation and needed to be paying rent, the facility would be available to make an online transfer through that system, subject to some controls around volume and velocity. Obviously, there would be some checks to make sure that that was not an attempt to use the funds for purposes other than informal rent. People would also be asked to indicate what those payments are being made for, so that there can be an assurance that they are not being used to circumvent the system.

CHAIR: In those circumstances, how would it work if, for instance, three people are sharing a house and they are all welfare recipients, so they all have the debit card and they have informal arrangements? Would they be able to transfer it to one of their accounts?

Dr Baxter : Absolutely. It would work very much like a normal online transfer system. Funds could be transferred either to another restricted account or to a nonrestricted account. There would just be, as I said, some checks around both the volume of those transfers and the frequency with which they are being transferred.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask how that would be checked? I want to make a payment to Fred. How do I prove that I am paying it for rent?

Dr Baxter : Matthew can talk to the detail of this, but I will just highlight that you will be able to make that payment. You will just be required to indicate through a drop-down facility what that payment is for, and you will be able to indicate that it is for a rent payment. The transaction will proceed as usual. There will just be some checks at the financial institution's end to ensure that there are no patterns there that are raising concerns about fraud, or other concerns. Those checks and those flags will be discussed with the communities. That will be part of the implementation planning for the trial, to make sure that the community is able to identify the patterns that might be concerning to them. They have indicated to us in some of the discussions that there would be certain transfers or perhaps ways of getting around the system that has been set up that they would be concerned about, and that they could identify some of the flags that might suggest we should be worrying about particular transfers.

Mr Johnston : That is right. As my colleague Ms Baxter said, regarding the velocity and volume restrictions, we would be creating rules, working in partnership with the institution, that would limit the number of transactions to unrestricted accounts and the quantum of the money that is being transferred, to try to limit any potential leakage to unrestricted accounts that may be then withdrawn as cash. We are setting up those rules in addition to these other mechanisms that Ms Baxter has described to try to limit that risk of leakage.

Senator SIEWERT: What about cash? The point that was made this morning was where you pay cash for your rent. It would probably take all of your 20 per cent to pay your rent, so you are not going to be able to do that.

Dr Baxter : That option is still available to you and that you do have access to 20 per cent of your cash but, as you have said, that is likely—

Senator SIEWERT: If you are on Newstart, you have 50 bucks a week

Dr Baxter : to be not enough for rent payments. We are envisaging that Centrepay deductions or, if it is an informal rent arrangement, then you would seek to obtain somebody's bank account details and make an online transfer. If that is a normal pattern of rent payment, weekly or fortnightly, and for an amount that looks like a rent payment amount, there will be absolutely no problems with that transaction.

Senator SIEWERT: We might as well complete the financial side of it, and obviously there are some issues there we cannot traverse yet because you cannot tell us. Is it accurate to assume there is only one financial institution or will there be more?

Dr Baxter : We have not finalised that at this stage, as we are currently in negotiations with potential commercial providers.

Senator SIEWERT: So there could actually be more—

Dr Baxter : There certainly is a possibility of that, but we have not made a final decision.

Senator SIEWERT: If there is more than one, will I get to choose which one I want?

Dr Baxter : Again, that would be part of the negotiations. It is not envisaged at this stage that there would be a choice for the restricted component, but the exact details of how the commercial arrangements will work are still being worked through.

Senator SIEWERT: Regarding the financial institution checking, you said there will be drop-boxes if you are doing online transfers, saying 'I'm paying electricity' or 'I'm am paying this bill.' What will the process be for checking from the financial institution's point of view?

Dr Baxter : It is envisaged that there will be a number of flags and that those flags would be worked through with the communities. The process would then be that a person who is making one of those payments would go to the normal online system. They would indicate how much they wish to make a payment for, the purpose that it is going to be made for. That would then go through to the back-end system. If none of the flags were raised that have been negotiated in partnership with the community that would be of concern—the transaction would go through, in any case, is my understanding. Unless a flag is raised at the back-end, we would be more likely to look at prohibiting future transfers to that bank account or kicking off an investigation to look at why there might be an unusual pattern to that particular transaction?

Mr Johnston : For example, in the situation of utilities and those kinds of bills where you are using Bpay, Bpay have unique particular numeric identifiers, which allow the institution to check that what you are transferring the money for actually matches up to that purpose.

Senator SIEWERT: I appreciate that, but I refer to the situation we were just talking about with rent. If I am the person who is responsible the rent, you are paying me because I am the person that is ultimately making the rent payment. I am not going to have a bill-payer account.

Mr Johnston : That is right. The situation is, as Ms Baxter describes it.

Senator SIEWERT: For electricity, I understand that, you would probably like to have bill pay. Even then, if the property is in my name, I am going to be sharing the rent payment around, so Fred is going to have to make a payment to me for my electricity as well.

Dr Baxter : They can also be informal payments made for rent share arrangements.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you explain that.

Dr Baxter : They can be payments where people are sharing rent, so it is not that you have to pay the entirety of the rent—

Senator SIEWERT: No, I understand that. So if I am making a regular payment for the rent—

Dr Baxter : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: but then I am also going to have to be paying the electricity—

Dr Baxter : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: and the water and whatever, I am going to be making those informal payments—

Dr Baxter : And there is a facility to do that.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, I understand that, but there is a potential that, if I am making several of those, that could then come up as a flag because I am making these fairly frequent odd-amount payments?

Dr Baxter : Yes, and so the process would be that, if a flag is raised, it is not envisaged at the moment that there would be an automatic cut-off. It would be simply a flag to cause some further investigation, and we would have a look at the pattern. That would kick off a series of discussions with the person and potentially the community organisations they might be working with.

Senator MOORE: Who is doing those discussions?

Senator SIEWERT: That is what I also wanted know.

Senator MOORE: Is that Human Services? Is that the local Centrelink?

Dr Baxter : Who would be having the discussions with the person? The investigations would be led by the financial institution, to look at.

Senator MOORE: So the financial institutions will be talking, individually, with the clients about how they are using their money? Is that what you are saying?

Mr Johnston : No, only if, as Dr Baxter said, there look to be patterns of potential fraud and those kinds of things. When you are paying and transferring between housemates to pay utilities, the utility bills come at fairly regular intervals, usually quarterly. So, with those kinds of things, it will be easy to identify that those transfers could potentially be used for utility payments and other bills that are a normal part of being in a share house. We are not saying that an institution would be having those individual conversations about how you are spending your money.

Senator SIEWERT: Who would be?

Senator MOORE: I do not get you, Mr Johnston. You are actually saying that the flag happens and then the institution will talk to the person about it.

Mr Johnston : Not in all circumstances, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: That is what we wanted to get to.

Senator MOORE: That is what I got from your answer.

Senator SIEWERT: So did I.

Dr Baxter : I am sorry. I was saying the financial institution would lead the noticing of the flags and the gathering of information about the flags and the process for exactly how that would work, at the level of individual and community, is still being worked through and would be worked through as part of implementation arrangements on the ground, in particular sites, and with the eventual institution that we negotiate with.

Senator MOORE: So we still do not know who will be talking to the client?

Dr Baxter : Where there is a concern about a potential misuse or fraud?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Dr Baxter : No, that is something that we are still working through.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, I am finding this really hard to deal with and to understand.

Senator MOORE: I do not get it. There is nothing in what we have seen that explains that. Suppose you are a person receiving a welfare payment from Human Services, from Centrelink. Part of that is going to be the way they are going to get the payment, and they are working with a financial institution to arrange the methodology of payment. That is what the financial institution does—that alone. But they will be scrutinising the process and it will be the institution which will be determining whether there is anything unusual about what is going on. With my money, maybe they should do more scrutiny, but there is no-one looking at that. But in this case, as a welfare client, you would have a private institution scrutinising how you are using your money, but with discussions—because that is where the flagging happens. But where that information is shared is yet unknown in this trial.

Dr Baxter : The financial institution's role would just be to scrutinise whether there are any flags that go up that have been agreed at the community level that suggest that the card is not being used for the purposes that it is set up for.

Senator MOORE: So the flags are going to be agreed at the community level as well?

Dr Baxter : So we are anticipating that those flags will be negotiated with the community. The community have already identified for us some of those patterns that might raise concerns when you are looking to implement this system. So we would look to work with the communities about what might be some of the flags that we would need to consider in finalising the system. The financial institution would play a similar role to the role it plays now in identifying fraudulent transactions, where it looks across transactions and it has certain flags that go up to suggest that there might be fraud. It then has a process for how that fraud is dealt with, often through notifying the customer: 'We have a concern about this; can you explain what's happened.' In this instance, we have not yet finalised how this concerning transaction that may have been identified, or this concerning pattern of transactions, would be further actioned, and that would be part of working through the implementation arrangements.

Senator MOORE: So who notifies the client that someone has found that something they have done could be suspicious? At the moment, I sometimes get notifications from my financial institution that there seemed to be unusual activity on my account, and could I contact them. That happens electronically. Who does that contact with the client under this system?

Ms Baxter : That is still being worked through. The exact implementation arrangements of how that contact will happen is still being worked through. We know the financial institution will gather the information. Once the flags have been identified at a policy level, working with the community, the financial institution will obtain that information. We are still finalising exactly how that process would occur with the client.

Senator SIEWERT: We can traverse some more of that again in estimates, maybe. Before we go to the evaluation process, I think we need to get a breakdown of the numbers that we are talking about on how many people are involved and on what payments.

Ms Baxter : Are you talking about in the two trials?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. Ceduna is clearer, I presume, because you have signed the MOU. You are still working on the Kununurra-East Kimberley process, as I understand it quite clearly from the evidence. Could you give us the numbers you have for both?

Mr Johnston : In terms of the total income-support-payment population, I will start with Ceduna. Did you want the total population of Ceduna first?

Senator SIEWERT: The total population and the breakdown for the working-age payments.

Mr Johnston : Did you want us to step you through the payments that will be applied, as well? The trigger payments, for example? Why don't I start going through the data? Do you want me to step you through the demographic data we have, and then to identify the particular payments that may be included in the trial?

Senator SIEWERT: I might get you to take that on notice, because we are going to run out of time and we are going to have lots of questions on notice. I am interested in the population, to know what size we are talking about.

Mr Johnston : The total population—this is not the income-support population—of Ceduna and surrounds is around 4,200 people. The total income-support-payment population in the trial, bearing in mind that this might move around from time to time depending on people coming on and off payment, is around 900.

Senator SIEWERT: Are the 4,200 and the 900 directly comparable and for the same boundaries?

Mr Johnston : Yes, we are using the same boundaries as we use for the income management area. So that includes some of the surrounds, as you have been hearing today. In terms of the breakdown of the particular payments, there are quite a number of payments that are part of that working-age payment, and then you have the additional payments, and sometimes you get into that situation—it might be with income management—where you get less than 20, so it might be best for us to take it on notice about the breakdown of payments.

Senator SIEWERT: Are you able to provide that relatively quickly?

Mr Johnston : I think so.

Senator SIEWERT: How many people are we talking about in East Kimberley?

Mr Johnston : The East Kimberley region has a population of around 11,300.

Ms Edwards : We should make the point, of course, that the boundaries that we are talking about for the Kununurra-East Kimberley region are not set, so Mr Johnston's evidence will be about the whole of the region, not necessarily the region that will be within the trials. It is worth mentioning that.

Mr Johnston : That is a good point. As Ms Edwards has said, depending on the final boundaries and depending on how the consultation continues to go in that particular region, we are looking at a bit over 11,300 people as a total population. The income-support-payment population, for the purposes of the trial, would be about 2,700 or thereabouts, bearing in mind again that qualification I provided in relation to Ceduna about people going on and off.

Senator MOORE: Can we also have figures on how many of each of those populations identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander?

Mr Johnston : We do have percentages.

Senator MOORE: I would like numbers.

Mr Johnston : In Ceduna, in terms of the income support population—is that what you are after?—or the total population?

Senator MOORE: Both.

Mr Johnston : For total population, the Indigenous population is about 28-30 per cent in Ceduna. People who identify as Indigenous who are on income support is roughly around 69 per cent.

Senator SIEWERT: That is in Ceduna. What about in the East Kimberley?

Mr Johnston : Again, as a percentage of the total population of East Kimberley, approximately 48 per cent of the total population identify as Indigenous, and an approximate percentage for income support is 91 per cent.

Senator MOORE: Can we get better figures on that in terms of exact figures and what the numbers are from the sample that you are able to give us, pending boundary changes and those things, and broken down into what payment they are receiving, their age, gender—that degree of definition?

Dr Baxter : We can certainly give you some of the figures that we have, recognising those limitations as Ms Edwards said, the East Kimberley boundaries are not settled and that for some of these payment types the numbers that are on them are very small.

Senator SIEWERT: If you are saying less, we get the less than 20 per cent—

Mr Johnston : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: We have been doing that for a while.

Dr Baxter : So we will give that to you on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I just double check an assumption that I am making. Are the figures that you have given us, in terms of the number of people on income support of 2,700, the 91 per cent, just for the working age payments?

Mr Johnston : That is correct.

Senator SIEWERT: The cohort, the groups of people that we are talking about?

Mr Johnston : Correct.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the evaluation, I will put some more in-depth questions on notice, but can you just give us a quick outline about where you up to in—I am making the assumption that you are doing the trial—how you are going to do that, and where the planning is up to.

Dr Baxter : An independent and comprehensive evaluation is planned to consider the impact of limiting the nature of welfare funds in this way. We are anticipating that we will use both quantitative and qualitative information to look at the measurable social change in the trial communities. We are looking at exploring data sets that include both commonwealth, and state and territory government collections. We anticipate that they will have a level of detail that has not been available in previous evaluations. It is likely to include, but not be limited to, hospitalisations, incidence of domestic violence, crime, changes in demand for drug and alcohol services, alcohol sales, gambling rates and any indicators that we are able to obtain in relation to drug use as well.

In the planning stages that we are up to at the moment we are anticipating that the evaluation will also canvass the opinions of trial participants, service providers in the community and individuals in the community so that we can really develop our understanding of the broader impact of the trial on community functioning. We are also looking at a specialist analysis that will explore the card's electronic function—how its functionality has worked and how viable that has been. There will be a stream of it that looks at that commercialisation piece and how effective that has been. Again recognising the stage of the evaluation that we are at, the objectives are whether the introduction of a cashless card in that community has corresponded with this change in community harm.

Senator SIEWERT: Through the day we talked a lot about the need for wraparound services, and we will come to the quantum of those in a minute, but it is quite obvious that there is an expectation and an understanding from the community that there are going to be a lot more services as part of the process here. How are you going to evaluate the impact of the provision of really good services? I am making the assumption that that is what is going to happen—talking to the community, that is the expectation. So how are you going to measure what are the services and what is the impact of the card if you have not got—or have you got?—a community you are measuring where things are running along the same and you have got a comparison of another centre where you are providing all those wraparound services without the healthy welfare card.

Dr Baxter : The stage that the evaluation planning is at at the moment has not gone down to that level of detail, because we do not know, as you have suggested, exactly what the nature of the service provision is going to be. But it is looking at the nature of the change in the community, so we anticipate that service provision would be an element of that.

Senator SIEWERT: This is a trial about the debit card.

Dr Baxter : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: I am not for one second arguing that you do not provide the services, but how are you going to tell what the impact of the card itself will be? Are you going to have a comparator? This is a fairly high-level question. That is why I am asking it now. I understand that you have not worked out all the details. How are you going to be able to tell the difference the debit card makes if you are not looking at a community that also has just the provision of all those services?

Senator MOORE: If you can find one.

Senator SIEWERT: They would have to do it where you are providing the services to the same level, and then look at the impact that the debit card has made.

Dr Baxter : There is certainly consideration being given in the evaluation to baselining where the community is at now, in terms of both level and harm. That would also include the provision of services now. I cannot specify whether there is going to be consideration given to comparative communities at this stage, because the evaluation has not got to that level of planning, but certainly that issue of the baseline now without any extra wraparound services that might be provided is in scope for consideration in how we are thinking about the trial.

Senator SIEWERT: But what is not in scope yet is how you actually measure the impact of the card itself?

Ms Edwards : I think we are anticipating that we will be engaging an independent expert evaluator, and obviously—as discussed in estimates—these people are expert about the way they do the analysis to take into account the impact of other variables. I am sure that when we contract with that evaluator we will be asking exactly these questions as to how we can ensure what the impact of the card is as opposed to any other services. It is certainly something that we will take away and make sure we incorporate into our work.

Senator SIEWERT: What is the funding that has been made available for the evaluation?

Dr Baxter : Similarly to the conversation we had before, that funding is part of the whole package of funding for our commercial negotiations around this, including the provision of a provider for the evaluation. It is in the contingency reserve at the moment and not able to be discussed.

Senator MOORE: Is there a total in the contingency reserve?

Mr Johnston : It was not published in—

Ms Edwards : It is not a disclosed amount at this time.

Senator MOORE: So there is no known cap to how much money can be spent?

Ms Edwards : Not known.

Senator MOORE: It would make for good service, wouldn't it?

Ms Edwards : As you would be aware, in the budget measures—and it is as is usual—it is referred to as an amount in the contingency reserve, which will, of course, be entirely transparent when negotiations cease.

Senator SIEWERT: Once you have seen it.

Senator MOORE: Is your timetable still 1 January for Ceduna?

Mr Johnston : No, the implementation date is February 2016. That is what the parliamentary secretary, Mr Tudge, has been saying in the media and in his announcements.

Senator MOORE: It was not in the paperwork we had. We had 20 January.

Ms Edwards : The MOU refers to commencing in the first quarter of 2016, but all of our discussions at the moment are about February.

Senator SIEWERT: We only just got the MOU.

Senator MOORE: We did not have the MOU until this afternoon, or a departmental submission of any kind. You said that DSS would be providing one. Is PM&C going to give us something?

Ms Edwards : We are considering that a whole-of-government submission, so it will be a single submission from government.

Senator MOORE: When will we get that?

Dr Baxter : We will be looking at lodging that early next week.

Senator SIEWERT: Let us go on to the consultation process. Ms Edwards, you are responsible for the Aboriginal community part of the consultations—is that correct?

Ms Edwards : Prime Minister and Cabinet regional managers have been leading the discussions in the two current locations we are talking about—with DSS, obviously, because it involves Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Senator SIEWERT: That is right. I did not mean you personally.

Ms Edwards : I understood what you meant.

Senator SIEWERT: We have heard quite a bit about the consultation that the Aboriginal community has undertaken, but it has not been as clear what consultation process has been undertaken with non-Aboriginal people in the area—the broader community but particularly those that are on income support.

Dr Baxter : Consultations to date with all of the communities who have expressed an interest in the trial have focused on speaking to leaders and groups across the spectrum, so to both Indigenous leaders and groups and non-Indigenous leaders and groups. Generally it has started as an approach from a leadership grouping or a council, and we have then looked to include non-government organisations and service providers in those conversations as well. That has certainly been the case in the conversations we have had in Ceduna and also in the East Kimberley and in previous conversations we had in Moree. We identified a number of community organisations who are working on the ground with relevant groups and we approached them, talking them through the potential parameters of a trial and what might be some of the issues that we would need to take into account.

Senator SIEWERT: In Ceduna, who are the non-Indigenous leaders that you approached?

Ms Edwards : I might pass to Mr Matthews in a minute for the detail. We have got a schedule of what our consultations have been, which we thought we might table—

Senator SIEWERT: That would be great.

Ms Edwards : to save time. In Ceduna we have counted about 128 contacts so far with various people across Indigenous leaders and corporations; the shire council, which has been a key one; service providers ranging across the whole of the communities; various state government instrumentalities including schools, direct service provisions and so on; the chamber of commerce; local merchants; and some public meetings. I am a bit reluctant to talk about individuals with whom we have met, obviously for privacy reasons, but you might have a look at what we are tabling and perhaps we can answer questions or put on notice any further detail you need.

Senator SIEWERT: When and where did you hold public meetings, and how did you advertise them?

Mr Matthews : There have been community-level meetings done in all of the Indigenous communities. I think—there was evidence a bit earlier today—that the leaders have done their own sessions, and there were some additional face-to-face community based sessions. They are in the material that is coming through. So there were broad opportunities for community members to come and hear about the card and provide some perspective on that in each of the Indigenous communities. That was part of the consultation process.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I go back to the non-Indigenous communities?

Ms Edwards : We have led the consultation for the whole of the community, so we are happy to take the question. There has not, as far as we are aware, been a general public meeting for the whole of the community, as opposed to the Indigenous communities we have had those meetings at. That is partly because what we have done in developing the plan is to go and talk to the key organisations, including the shire and so on, and take their lead about how they thought the most appropriate way to consult was. And we have taken the approach we have through service providers, state government and those main bodies on the basis of that advice.

Mr Matthews : And I think some of the advice from the mayor this morning was about how the elected arm, through the normal mechanisms with which they engage with the community—

Senator MOORE: To achieve over 90 per cent approval.

Mr Matthews : Yes. He talked about the processes that they would normally undertake.

Senator SIEWERT: So the four witnesses that we had from the community just happen to be the ones who got missed out? They were not—you heard the evidence.

Mr Matthews : I think it would be safe to say there has been—we think there has been reasonably comprehensive engagement. Whether you could say that every person in Ceduna has been personally engaged in the concept of a card—

Senator MOORE: Has every person on Centrelink payment been advised?

Ms Edwards : Not individually in the way you are suggesting.

Senator MOORE: Why not? What is the strategy behind not advising every current individual—

Ms Edwards : There are two aspects to the consultation. Generally the first one, which is the one we are close to reaching the end of—although we are still engaging with people and happy to take further suggestions as to people we should talk to—is about whether there is a level of support, of interest, from key people in the community for having a trial of this type. With the signing of the MOU we are really close to the end of that process. We think there is a level of support worth progressing. There is clearly and necessarily a further process of consultation with each person who may be affected in terms of how the card will be issued, what it will mean to them and all of those sorts of things. In that regard, absolutely every person affected will be contacted.

Senator MOORE: So the MOU was signed with a ceremony, which I found in the minutes of the council, on 5 August. There was great local media saying, 'This MOU has been signed and Ceduna welcomes this change to the way welfare payments are being made in our region.' And yet nothing to the—you gave the figures, Mr Johnston—the numbers of people who will be directly impacted by this change. What is the strategy? You have just said you are going through a process. That was 5 August; it is now 11 September and people who are currently receiving a payment still have not got an individual notification about the proposed trial, which has already been published in the local media, and what it could mean to them. What is the strategy that that has not been done?

Ms Edwards : Once the location was found, there was a level of support. By no means was it ever intended that everybody agree.

Senator MOORE: Certainly.

Ms Edwards : It is a matter of there being a level of support from leaders for all the reasons we have canvassed on many occasions. Now, one of the key tasks, which I will pass back to my colleagues, is about the implementation process and making sure those things happen, and that they happen absolutely before February when the trial would proceed. It is absolutely essential that—

Senator MOORE: Really Ms Edwards? Before February they will get notified?

Ms Edwards : You may have more information about that.

Senator MOORE: That is the departmental evidence? Okay.

Dr Baxter : No, that is absolutely the case. The plan for the consultation process had been to engage community leaders and organisations, recognising that we understood that many of them were working with their constituencies to talk with them about the project and the potential trial, and that there would be a much deeper and broader level of engagement occur as implementation planning ramped up.

Senator SIEWERT: I am sure you will acknowledge that not all of the people who are going to be affected are suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and that they gamble. Once you have spoken to other organisations, which they probably have no contact with—

Senator MOORE: About them.

Senator SIEWERT: because they do not have any problems—they are on DSP, they are managing their money fine or they are on Newstart and they are trying to find work—then you will tell them that they are going to be income managed.

Dr Baxter : They will be worked with through a number of different processes to ensure they understand what this involves, they understand what the process has been to get to this point to date and they understand the implementation arrangements for the trial.

Senator SIEWERT: So, 'We are coming down and we are doing this to you. We have not told you about it, until now, when the decision has been made.'

Dr Baxter : Our strong understanding has been that leaders in organisations we have been working with have been engaging with their constituencies seeking the views of the people they work with.

Senator SIEWERT: Ms Baxter, many of these people are not constituents of anybody because they do not need to access services. They are managing very well on their own. So they do not have an organisation that represents them. What we are saying is that their shire council has made a decision for them on this. Can you see why people are a bit frustrated about it?

Senator MOORE: Can you see where people could be taken by surprise? Is that something that you understand?

Ms Edwards : I should mention of course that I do not think we said that the shire council had made the decision for it. I said that we were using the processes of local government, that is obviously much closer to the road, to talk to its constituents, which they should be doing and we will be encouraging them to do. We should also note that some of the detail of this is not set because the legislation is still in the process it is in.

Senator MOORE: Sure.

Ms Edwards : We do have to take care in terms of making sure that the information we provide, about what is going to happen and when it is going to happen, is correct. When I say before February, I do not mean on 29 January. I mean in the months between now and then. That is an absolutely key priority for us.

Senator MOORE: So that we are not talking at cross purposes—and also we do not have much time—do you understand the concerns that we are raising? We have a situation that has now reached public acknowledgement where an MoU has been signed—which is a significant step. I have looked at the media and it is saying new welfare process in Ceduna. It goes on to talk about the fact that people who are in the community, who are receiving welfare payments, will have changes. That is out there. For the people who will be individually impacted, do you see that they need to know that they could be part of this process?

Dr Baxter : In our planning, we have certainly thought very carefully about the process of implementation and how people would be involved, recognising that we do have some limitations around the fact that we do not have a viable trial until we have the legislation to support it. So it has been a careful process of thinking through when we may be able to start engaging with people about the detail of the trial and who might be impacted but recognising that we still have that limitation of not yet having a piece of legislation that can support it.

Senator MOORE: That is our fault. We have not passed the legislation.

Senator SIEWERT: I know there are other issues that we need to traverse so I just want to ask a couple of questions about the consultation process. My understanding, from evidence we got this morning—and it may be that people just missed the ads—is that through this process of consultation there were no ads in newspapers about it.

Dr Baxter : No, that was not part of the consultation approach that we took.

Senator SIEWERT: What level of confidentiality, if any, was expected from organisations when they were consulted?

Mr Matthews : As far as I understand, I do not think there was any. There were no confidentiality deeds or any legal or technical thing.

Senator SIEWERT: Were there any informal levels of confidentiality?

Mr Matthews : No, I think it just would have—

Senator SIEWERT: So you said you did not think so. I am just trying to be clear—there was none?

Mr Matthews : No, I do not know that. I do not think—

Ms Edwards : There was a level of confidentiality on our end. Having talked to individuals that we are careful about, in terms of imposing on people with whom we consulted, who they could talk to about the prospect, I do not completely know.

Mr Matthews : I do not think we would want it the other way around—that the purpose of consulting would be to work through the leaders and get them to go and talk to people and seek their views. I am not aware of any time we have done that, because I think what we want is for them to go and talk to other people and bring back the views of why that is.

Dr Baxter : That is certainly the case on the DSS site as well, with communities we have consulted—there has been no requirement of confidentiality and, in fact, we have sought for people to go and seek other views and feed them back to us through the process.

Ms Edwards : It has been very important for us to ask people: how is the best way to get this out, so that we can consult with people and take in their advice on that? That is one of the reasons why advertisements in newspapers really have not been something that was—

Senator SIEWERT: Obviously people have been missed. How did you guarantee—

Ms Edwards : There is no guarantee.

Senator MOORE: We have a copy of the MOU on an email. Consistently we have been speaking about—and the people we have been talking to have been saying—that this relies on Commonwealth, state, local government and community engagement. Is there any reason that the MOU does not include the state government as a signatory?

Ms Edwards : Only that our discussions with the state government are still continuing, and they were not heavily involved in this discussion. They have indicated a level of support, though they are still working through their processes. Mr Matthews is leading the discussions with them.

Mr Matthews : I think that why they have not signed the MOU is that the concept of the MOU was that it was signed with the people more directly affected by where the trial would operate. We have not signed on all of the service providers in the region or on to that wider set, either. I think the MOU was focused on looking at the representatives of the community as such, but our discussions have been pretty ongoing with the South Australian government. Certainly there are already mechanisms in place where the South Australian government has put in their local reform process on the ground, and that has been consulted on numerous times. We have been working very closely with them around that to ensure that, as part of the design process, it links into what the South Australian government is doing.

Senator MOORE: The MOU particularly refers to the fact that state and federal governments will be providing services. Is there any anticipation that there will be an MOU with the South Australian government? I am concentrating on the Ceduna trial, because that is the one that is most progressed, but is there any expectation that there will be a formal sign-on from the state government to complete the package? The MOU, when you read the paragraph that leads to the wraparound services in which we have been particularly interested, talks about the engagement of the local, state and federal government. Is it anticipated that that will happen?

Ms Edwards : I think we are anticipating that we will come to an agreement and an arrangement with the South Australian government. I do not know if anyone has turned their mind to the idea that there would be a formal MOU with them necessarily, but we certainly want to come to a concluded arrangement with them.

Senator SIEWERT: We have been discussing wraparound services; broadly there is agreement that they will be provided. What is the process now for negotiating those and the level of support that will be provided as part of that package?

Ms Edwards : In Ceduna?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Mr Matthews : As I said, there are the broad themes in the MOU that were negotiated originally with the community leaders and the local council, and there are ongoing discussions with them specifically about the types of themes that might fit under those headings and what might be needed. They are occurring on a week-by-week basis through the working group that has been established in the Ceduna region. We are starting to get to more of the nitty gritty of what that might mean on the ground, looking at what is already in place and what might need to be connected up to that—where enhancements may be needed or where there may be gaps. We are conscious that, particularly in Ceduna, there is already a level of service provision in the community and the local service reform group that is trying to coordinate that and make the existing services there more effective. It is about making sure that we are connected up to those things, and that what we do is an addition to what is there and that it is in the areas where it is needed.

Senator SIEWERT: During our discussions today, the point was strongly made about individual service supports and working with each individual that is under this measure, to look at—

Senator MOORE: Particularly by Mr Forrest.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. They will talk to each individual and provide whatever services and wraparound supports are needed for that individual on an individual basis. Is that what is proposed, and is that what you are discussing with the working group?

Ms Edwards : Obviously, as you have discussed today, not everybody who might be using the card will need the sort of intensive rehab or other personal assistance that others might. We are aware that there is already a level of support for people in the community, so what we are trying to anticipate is, firstly, whether there is an obvious gap. And there is concern among many that there might be a spike in some of the need for services when the card is introduced, so we are trying to make sure we have the surge capacity to cover those. Some of those services, obviously, will be very individualised. Some of the things we are looking at involve either intensive rehabilitation or assistance with overcoming crisis—those types of things. We are not looking at intensive one-on-one services for every person in Ceduna because, as you have said, not everybody will need that.

Senator MOORE: Who is determining the need? We are going to get the baseline. You said part of the evaluation was having a baseline. We know that the leaders in the community are working out what they are going to put forward as the requirement for enhanced services. But who is going to be assessing the need of the individual? If you have a person who is currently receiving a welfare payment and they have been identified through the system as needing this extra help, is it going to be the social worker at the Ceduna office of Centrelink who will determine whether there will be greater need of service? Who is going to take that decision?

Ms Edwards : We are expecting people to access services through similar routes to what they do now. I am thinking particularly of alcohol and other drug types of services—

Senator MOORE: Isn't one of the issues that has been identified by the community leaders that clearly they are not getting that service now, and they are not using it? Who was the person that they walked past?

Mr Matthews : They may be accessing the service, but one of the issues on the ground is that somebody may go into the sobering-up centre or into short-term withdrawal and detox services, but they bounce back out and then immediately access alcohol again, so they just keep churning through that cycle.

Senator MOORE: That was identified.

Mr Matthews : It is not so much that the service is not there. It is just that they become multiple users of it.

Senator MOORE: What is not there is the rehab service. That is clear. That is coming.

Mr Matthews : As I say, part of the process is looking at what is around in the region. There is a residential rehab facility, for example, opening in Port Augusta that is funded and will be opened close to the end of this month. That will be part of that regional solution there.

Senator MOORE: Will the Port Augusta service which is down the road be considered part of the baseline?

Mr Matthews : It will certainly be something that people can access, that people can be streamed into, so it provides another avenue to address rehabilitation and withdrawal services.

Ms Edwards : We are doing three things. First, we are having a look at what is there now and trying to identify any gaps. There are gaps anywhere, as we all know, but we are trying to identify the particular things that might be of concern. Second, we are trying to make sure we have the capacity to respond to any increase in need. This is why we are having a trial. It is not yet clear what need we will have to respond to. Third, during the course of the trial we want to watch very carefully so that if there is some unanticipated need that we have not considered, we can respond to it.

Senator SIEWERT: The conversation we are having now seems to be at odds with the conversation we had with the community representatives a couple of hours ago. There is clearly an expectation that there will be a lot more services provided. I do not think I have misread this. They went so far as to say—and I presume you were listening—that if those services are not provided then they are not going to give the go-ahead. There is clearly an expectation that a lot more personalised, individualised services will be provided, and their support is contingent on that. Mr Forrest said the same thing.

Senator MOORE: To be fair, they also said they had not given a full list of what they think should be there yet. They are still working through that process.

Ms Edwards : That is why we are talking in generalities about what we are trying to anticipate in order to make the trial effective—in Kununurra as well. In Ceduna, there is obviously a concrete process where they have made some suggestions, we have come back with some other ideas, and we are in the throes of that discussion. A little bit of that came out today. I am sorry; I was doing other things as well, so I did not listen to every word today. But, certainly, there is the sense that it is an ongoing discussion and one they are very interested in. We agree it is a very important thing.

Mr Matthews : Given we have not settled the package, it probably sounds a little bit like we do not have anything concrete. We cannot say there is X going in and there is a tangible net addition, so it probably sounds like we are fudging a little bit and, therefore, it sounds like we are not going to provide anything. What we are trying to say is that there are existing services there. What we are doing is working through with the representatives and the leaders to work out what else is needed and what else makes sense. That is the discussion that we are going through at the moment.

Senator SIEWERT: I am saying this carefully: is there a quantum that has been put on the level of services that will be provided?

Ms Edwards : No.

Senator SIEWERT: In other words, it is open as to how much can be provided when you negotiate? There is no limit to that?

Ms Edwards : There is a limit. There is a discussion about what is needed to make the trial work and what other ideas you have that we might be able to look at at the moment. It is not a grab bag of lollies. It is a discussion about what we need to do to make sure this works for you. You are obviously a community that is really stepping up to try something, and in this term we really want to talk to you about what you think is needed. But we do not want to put in services that are not the right ones to respond to the needs. There is the care thing. We need to be careful to make sure we hold back some of our response in order to see what actually happens, so we can respond. It is a conversation with the community, as it always is. The demands are high, and we are doing our best to make sure that we come to a satisfactory resolution.

Senator MOORE: How long have these negotiations been going on?

Mr Matthews : Ceduna was from around April-May, from memory. I would have to go back to my notes.

Dr Baxter : What I can say is that consultations have been at a number of levels. We will have a quick look for the dates that we began talking.

Ms Edwards : I have April dates at the earliest.

Dr Baxter : Around April we began at a reasonably broad level, and then those discussions have become more specific as we have progressed. We started at a high level with an approach from leaders and some broad conversations and then, in that time, it has become more intensive. They began in April, but obviously discussions are becoming more specific as they progress. That is the case in each of the communities we have been talking with.

Senator SIEWERT: As part of the approach, are further alcohol restrictions being considered in relation to access, supply and demand?

Mr Johnston : Like an alcohol management plan, for example? No.

Dr Baxter : They are not an element of the trial that we are looking to implement.

Senator SIEWERT: Why not?

Ms Edwards : Alcohol restrictions and the way alcohol is regulated is a constant discussion between the Commonwealth and the states as part of other processes in our community safety agenda. We are talking to South Australia and others about alcohol generally. It has not come into the specific discussions in relation to the Ceduna trial.

Senator MOORE: It is not one big alcohol management plan? Certainly the community focused on alcohol, but they did include drugs, so I see it more as an alcohol and drug management plan. In many ways it seems to me to be a community-wide alcohol management plan.

Ms Edwards : I shy away from the term 'alcohol management plan' because, as we have discussed before, it means different things in different parts of the country—Queensland, the Territory and so on. But it is the case that it is a measure designed to limit harm caused by alcohol, at least as one of its major aims.

Senator MOORE: And to limit the access to the alcohol.

Ms Edwards : To limit access to alcohol and the harm caused by it. That is what we are trialling to see if it has that impact.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand that, in terms of restricting expenditure, but surely supply is a key part of that. I understand when you said there was an ongoing discussion. But, as part of this process, is a key element to address that issue of supply? I do not mean 'dry'—

Ms Edwards : We are trialling this measure to see what impact it has, and other initiatives are being considered separately.

Dr Baxter : The card does have the effect of restricting supply for people who are using the card, in the sense that they cannot use the card to purchase alcohol, and there is very limited access to cash.

Mr Johnston : It limits demand.

Ms Edwards : We have, many times, discussed the need for supply, demand and harm minimisation issues to be considered in relation to alcohol harm. This is the trial of an alcohol-demand measure. The hope is that it will have a big impact on the harm caused by alcohol abuse, and that is what we will see.

Senator SIEWERT: We have been using family commission, but—

Ms Edwards : I know what you mean.

Senator SIEWERT: You know what I mean—

Mr Johnston : The community body.

Senator SIEWERT: It is a community body, which is clause 124PE. How is that going to be appointed? Who will do the appointing?

Dr Baxter : The legislation allows the minister to authorise a local community body to vary the percentage on the cards. It would be the minister that does the authorising of the body.

Senator SIEWERT: The minister does, but who determines who is on the body?

Ms Edwards : That is a matter we will want to work through with the community. We are expecting the community would nominate that and work up the proposal. It is something that we are providing as an option in a location that would be a trial. It is one that both the Ceduna community and those we have been talking to in Kununurra are interested in. It is really at an reasonably early level of development, because we want it to be led. It could be a range of different arrangements.

You mentioned the Family Responsibilities Commission. Clearly, it is not going to have that sort of infrastructure, but it could be that type of thing with some local elders. If you think about the way it works in various places in the Cape, the local elders are the people who come together and effectively conference with people who choose to come and say, 'I would like to have the amount that is on the restricted debit card reduced.' But it could be a particular service provider, which is nominated and agreed, that has that role. That is something that we will really be led with by leaders.

Senator SIEWERT: What is the minimum level? I have a bit of a misunderstanding, I suspect, about what the minimal level is that you can come down to, and what is restricted.

Ms Edwards : I must say I found it confusing too. Fifty is the minimum.

Senator SIEWERT: Fifty is the minimum. People were talking about 70-30.

Ms Edwards : It is between 80 and 50. It could really go from 80 to 60 or 80 to 50, but it cannot go up. It is because they add up all the numbers in the legislation.

Senator SIEWERT: From the discussions that we have had with community leaders today, it seems to me that there is an expectation that it will comprise Aboriginal leaders in both communities. There are non-Aboriginal people that are affected by this measure as well. How do you envisage incorporating them?

Ms Edwards : There are a couple of things there. Obviously this is a matter for the community to talk to us about, but this is the sort of conversation I might start. You might envisage, in some places, having more than one panel that could be convened. You could have an agreement across the whole community that the panel would include Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, or all sorts of different people, to whom anybody could come, or you could have a couple of panels that you might select from. Obviously there are complexities there. It is a matter to work through.

We at PM&C will mostly be talking to Indigenous leaders about that, and that is what we are experienced with and going for. But we have to be open to a panel that anybody can feel comfortable in going to—one or more panels. Also it is very important to us that it is a matter of choice for a person to go before the panel. Nobody is compelled to go before it. It is a matter of choice. If some parts of the community decide they want to set up a panel and another part decided that they did not, nobody is going to be compelled to go and share their circumstances with the panel, if they are not comfortable.

Senator SIEWERT: I understood that. You are automatically on 80-20. If I want to go and change it, I then have to go to a panel. Is it up to the panel to determine the criteria that are used to reduce the amount?

Dr Baxter : The legislation does not specify—

Senator SIEWERT: It is a legislative instrument.

Dr Baxter : That is right. But it is envisaged that the features of the panel, including the matters that they give consideration to in making those decisions, would be part of the material that is put forward to the minister in authorising the body.

Senator SIEWERT: In authorising the body the criteria that will be used will have already been determined as part of the package?

Dr Baxter : How members might be appointed, what the issues might be that the panel considers in looking at whether or not to reduce a person's payment—these would be matters that the community would consider in working up its panel, and then that package of information would be put forward to the minister in deciding whether to authorise.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I just take you to what a child participant is. This gets to the point we were talking about when we talked about a trigger. A legislative instrument made under subsection (1) may be used to determine whether a trigger payment is to apply to a 'class of person'. What is a 'class of person'?

Mr Johnston : A particular class of person might be where you determine that people of a particular age on payment might be participants for the purposes of the trial. The government made the decision that all people who are on a working-age payment in a particular community—

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Mr Johnston : So, under that subparagraph, the minister will make an instrument, should the legislation pass, to say that the trigger payments are working-age payments, all of those in that particular area. If the minister so chose, under that provision, the minister could say 'a person who is in receipt of, say, Newstart allowance or a particular age'—

Senator SIEWERT: Under the age of a certain—

Mr Johnston : That is right.

Senator SIEWERT: 'Class of person' does not seem to be defined. Maybe it is expected that it sounds a bit obvious, but it does not seem obvious to me, sorry. But I now understand.

Dr Baxter : It is as Mr Johnston said. Our understanding is that it could incorporate both people on a particular payment and potentially other features such as being under a certain age.

Mr Johnston : That is what we have attempted to define in the explanatory memorandum as well. It is on page 4.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: I have two questions. One is about the discussion we had with the Western Australian community leaders. They said that they were confident that people understood the difference between the BasicsCard and the proposed new card arrangement and that they had been at a community meeting where the department had provided them with information about that. Can we get a copy of the information that was provided to them?

Mr Johnston : Yes.

Dr Baxter : Certainly.

Senator MOORE: Secondly, can you tell us where the policy decision came from to have the new card less restricted than the BasicsCard? One of the attractions that the Ceduna people mentioned was that, when they talked with the community, they were attracted because they felt that the new process was less restricted than the previous process. That is fine, but I am interested to know: where the new card limits access to gambling and to alcohol, whereas the BasicsCard had further restrictions around pornography—

Dr Baxter : That is right.

Senator MOORE: I know it is a policy decision, not yours, but where did the policy decision and the discussion go about why it was moving away from the restrictions that were placed in the original response?

Dr Baxter : From the beginning of the conception of the trial around the debit card, this has not been about replicating what is done in income management. There has been a sense that this is very separate and different from income management, and a number of the features of the trial go to that. You pointed out the types of products that are restricted, alcohol and gambling, rather than the broader suite of products under income management. The issue of—

Senator MOORE: You have a document that spells all this out?

Dr Baxter : We have a number.

Senator MOORE: Can we get access to anything that you have of that nature? That would be really useful.

Dr Baxter : Certainly.

Mr Johnston : As well, as Dr Baxter was saying, there have been a range of those policy conversations within government, but I guess the concept, as you heard in evidence today, for this type of card did come from the Forrest review. The Forrest review did condense that thinking around what particular goods cause harm in a community sense, what are those kinds of harms and what are the products that relate to that? I think that was a start of the conversation.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

CHAIR: Just before we conclude: we have just received correspondence from Mayor Suter, who appeared earlier. He wanted to correct some evidence, so I thought it might be easiest if I just read it onto the Hansard. This is from Mayor Suter: 'Subsequent to giving evidence to the Senate community affairs committee, it has been brought to my attention that I inadvertently gave some incorrect detail. This was in good faith, as I had misunderstood some detail relayed to me by another person. In my evidence I referred to 22 admittances to the hospital emergency department in one day, whereas it was actually over a period of three to four days. I apologise for the error and ask that the record be corrected, if possible, to reflect the true situation. Please be assured that I do try to have my facts correct. However, I slipped up badly in this instance.' That is now corrected for the record.

Thank you to all of our witnesses, and thank you to our departmental officials for being here.

Committee adjourned at 17:15