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Greens write to PM about cashless welfare card concerns



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No publication date - received by Parl Library 15 March 2016

Greens write to PM about cashless welfare card concerns

The Australian Greens have penned a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the cashless welfare card trial, which launched today in Ceduna.

“It is extremely disappointing that today the Government will be rolling out the Cashless Debit Card trial in Ceduna", Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said today.

“The Australian Greens hold major concerns about the impacts the card may have in entrenching poverty for residents in Ceduna accessing income support.

“The Australian Greens will continue to highlight logistical issues and community concerns associated with the card, and will keep a close eye on the Government’s potential plan to roll this out to regional Australia and beyond.

“This trial should not be taken lightly, it could serve as a stepping stone to huge changes in how our social safety net is rolled out across the country.

“We must abandon a paternalistic top-down approach to reducing disadvantage, time and time again we have learnt it does not work".

*See letter attached*

Nadine Walker

Media Adviser

Office of Rachel Siewert | Australian Greens Senator for Western Australia

1/151 Brisbane St, Northbridge WA 6003 | P: 08 9228 3277 | F: 08 9228 4055

SG-113 Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600| P: 02 6277 3587 | F: 02 6277 5762

nadine.walker@aph.gov.au | M: 0418 401 180

Dear Prime Minister

a1 AUSTRALIA ,L1-.

RACHEL SIEWERT Australian Greens Whip Senator for Western Australia

OPEN LETTER

gambling problems. I urge the Government to abandon the trial. I understand the Minister for Human Services sincerely believes the card could have some benefits, but income management has been trialled for nine years in the Northern Territory, evidence shows that it does not reduce disadvantage, in some instances worsening circumstances for those who feel disempowered and struggle with a paternalistic approach imposed by the Government.

Yours/sincerely

Senator Rachel Siewert

Today the Government will be rolling out the Cashless Debit Card (the card) trial in Ceduna, the first of three trial sites across regional Australia to occur this year. The Australian Greens hold major concerns about the impacts the card may have in entrenching poverty for residents in Ceduna accessing income support.

The Australian Greens maintain that the card will punish those doing the right thing whilst those struggling with gambling and alcohol abuse will find ways around the card. We know that income management doesn't work, this has been demonstrated by the Basics Card in the Northern Territory, which has failed in its objectives. Despite the imminent rollout of the card for Ceduna there are still major logistical issues and general questions that remain unanswered.

The trials were set up to test whether the cashless card will reduce gambling and drug and alcohol abuse. As part of the trial process $1 million is also being injected into the community for wrap around support services. When assessing the trial, the Government will not be able to identify whether it is the wrap around support services, or the card itself that have had any impact. Can you explain why the Government is not providing another community with a $1 million in wrap around services without the card so that a genuine comparison can take place?

We have also learned that none of the merchants in the Ceduna trial site who charge surcharges for using EFTPOS have agreed to remove their surcharge, aside from alerting income support recipients to these surcharges in the trial site, is the Government in further

conversations with merchants on lifting those surcharges? If not, what other options have been proposed in terms of compensating recipients for this surcharge?

On the supposedly launch day, there still isn't a list of local partners or approved merchants available. It's still not clear how much cash people will be able to transfer: in estimates I was told it would be $1,000 a month for housing, but the website currently lists $0 a month for housing. When I asked in estimates, officials couldn't tell me whether Indue subscribed to the ePayments code, the Code of Banking Practice and the Customer Owned Code of Banking Practice.

This card is going to make life even more difficult for those on income support and is likely to entrench poverty. Money spent on rolling out the card should go towards much needed wrap around support services that genuinely help communities battling alcohol, drug and

Parliament House, House, Canberra ACT 2600 I Phone: 02 6277 3587 I Fax: 02 6277 5762

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 I Phone: 02 6277 3587 I Fax: 02 6277 5762