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Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Page: 10956

Welfare Reform


Mr RAMSEY (GreyGovernment Whip) (15:02): My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services. Will the minister update the House on how the government is supporting families in my electorate of Grey with the cashless debit card, including getting people off welfare and into work? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches that would not help families in this way?


Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldMinister for Families and Social Services) (15:03): I thank the member for Grey, who has been a very strong advocate for a fair and sustainable welfare system, including championing the selection of Ceduna in his electorate as a location for the first trial of the cashless debit card—the arrangement under which 80 per cent of your welfare benefit is paid onto the card and you can't use it to buy drugs, to buy alcohol or to purchase gambling products, but you can use it to buy the necessities of life.

The results from the assessment of the trial in the first two trial sites, including Ceduna, vindicate the member's confidence, because 41 per cent of participants who drank alcohol reported drinking less. Forty-eight per cent of participants who used drugs reported using fewer drugs. What did the mayor of Ceduna, Mr Allan Suter, say? He said: 'We think the cashless debit card is probably the best thing that has ever happened for our community.' What did the chief executive of the Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation, Mick Haynes, have to say? He said, 'We have turned a corner. The card is working.'

Where is Labor on this issue? When the member for Jagajaga was the minister, she consistently supported income management and expanded the arrangements across a number of regions. With the Cashless Debit Card, the next generation of income management, what is Labor doing? Labor are opposing it. It's quite extraordinary. Labor are more interested, it would seem, in the votes of the Green left types, munching on their quinoa and goat's cheese salads in their multimillion dollar terrace houses, than they are in a practical welfare reform which is helping remote communities function better, helping vulnerable Australians stabilise their lives and helping put food on the table for children in welfare households.

Our approach will get people off welfare and into work. We've generated 1.1 million jobs since 2013 and unemployment is now at five per cent. The best form of welfare is a job. Labor's approach, by contrast, is to impose economy-killing taxes, to stifle investment and economic growth and to drive up unemployment. Labor's approach is to drive people out of work and onto welfare. That would be the effect of Labor's policy. I say to the other side of the House: give up this leftie posturing and do something that will actually help vulnerable Australians—support the Cashless Debit Card.