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Transcript of doorstop interview: Bundaberg, QLD: 21 September 2017: cashless debit card



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The Hon Alan Tudge MP Minister for Human Services

TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP WITH KEITH PITT MP BUNDABERG, QLD 21 SEPTEMBER 2017

Topics: Cashless Debit Card.

KEITH PITT: Good morning everyone. Firstly, can I welcome Alan Tudge back to the electorate, he is the Minister for Human Services.

Today we will be announcing the rollout of the Cashless Debit Card into the Hinkler electorate. This covers an area from Riverheads in Hervey Bay, up through the Susan River, out through Childers and Booyal and across to the Burnett. And of course, across to Burnett Heads.

It includes the major townships of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, areas like Childers, Woodgate and Booyal along the way.

Firstly, what I want to say to the people of this electorate. This will be a difficult policy to roll out. There is no doubt that this will provide some challenges. In my view, and certainly in the view of community leaders, which we have spoken to over previous months over many, many consultations, we think that it is worthwhile. We think it will absolutely add value.

We have a challenging environment around multigenerational welfare, we have a challenging environment, in particular around young children and parents who have difficulty with drugs, alcohol and gambling.

Certainly, this is the only opportunity which is on the table. There are always people out there who will be idealistically opposed to the rollout of the Cashless Debit Card, but no one else has put it in before.

In my view, this will work. The trial sites have demonstrated just how strong of a performance has been proven in those areas in terms of driving down the use of drug, driving down the use of alcohol and actually ensuring that children get the absolute benefit.

It is them that we are concerned about, and I am very pleased that Minister Tudge is here today to talk about it. I might hand over to Alan now.

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ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Keith. As Keith mentioned, today we are announcing that the cashless welfare card will be rolled out to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region.

We have chosen this region for two reasons. Firstly that there is strong community leadership support for the card to be rolled out here. And second because there are clear social needs.

In particular, high youth unemployment and high intergenerational welfare dependency. And second, high amounts of drug, alcohol and gambling abuse which impacts on children.

What this means is the card will go to all people on unemployment benefits or parenting payments who are under the age of 35 years. They will be in receipt of this card.

It is a Visa debit card, almost indistinguishable from any Visa debit card. But the key difference is that is does not work at the bottle shop, it does not work at the gambling houses and you cannot take cash out from it.

Eighty per cent of people’s welfare payments will be placed into an account which is only accessible from this card. The other 20 per cent will continue to go into people’s ordinary savings accounts.

We hope that by doing this process we will see more people who might be encouraged to take up the job opportunities which are there and also we hope that we see more children looked after.

The evidence from the trials is that it had that impact. Children were better looked after. We also saw the evidence in the trials that there was less alcohol consumed, less gambling, less drugs taken and more incentive for people to take work.

We are going to test this over the next 12 months and we will reassess it at the end of that 12 months and make decisions from there.

Can I just thank Keith Pitt though, for his leadership of this. If it was not for him, and the other community leaders in this region, we would not be making this announcement today.

JOURNALIST: What is going to be the benchmark of what is successful? Is it just going to be based on statistics?

ALAN TUDGE: We would like to see three things. We would like to see more people come off welfare and into work. We would like to see children better looked after and we would like to see less welfare money being spent on alcohol and drugs and gambling.

They are the things that we identified with other locations, we hope we will see those impacts here as well.

JOURNALIST: How can you actually measure those things [inaudible]?

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ALAN TUDGE: In the independent evaluation they used methodologies to make determinations to how much alcohol is being consumed and whether or not people were better able to look after their children.

From that evaluation 40 per cent of people said they were better able to look after their children from being on the welfare card. They showed 48 per cent of drinkers were drinking less, 48 per cent of people who took drugs were taking fewer drugs.

Forty-one per cent of people who were gamblers were gambling less. It has an impact, we have had independent evaluations to show that, we hope it will have the same impact here as well in Bundaberg.

JOURNALIST: Are they numbers from the Hinkler electorate? From the trial here?

ALAN TUDGE: They are from the trials in the East Kimberley and in South Australia. We have had trials going on now for 18 months. There was an independent evaluation of those trials and they are the results from that.

We have learnt from those trials. It was successful and now we are rolling it out to new locations.

A few weeks ago we announced that the Goldfields in Western Australia would be another location. Today we are announcing that Bundaberg and Hervey Bay will be a location for it.

JOURNALIST: There are people now saying that they will move out of the electorate to avoid being on the new card. What do you say to that?

ALAN TUDGE: At the end of the day, it is their decision where they live. But when this trial starts, people who are located in the area, who are under the age of 35, who are on unemployment benefits or parenting payments will be captured by the card.

Should they choose to leave after that, the card will follow them. This card will not work at any bottle shop in the country. It won’t work at any gambling house in the country and you cannot take cash out with it. Consequently, you cannot purchase illicit substances.

At the end of the day, welfare is there to support the basics, for your rent, for your food, for your transport. It is not there to support a drug, alcohol or gambling habit.

JOURNALIST: The people that I have spoken to are saying that they feel like they are being stigmatised and tarnished with a broad brush when they are not directly one of those people you are talking about.

ALAN TUDGE: Let me make a few points in relation to that. Firstly, the independent evaluation surveyed people on the card and only four per cent of people said that they thought there was any stigma associated with it.

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The second point I would make is that, take a look at this card. It is a silver Visa debit card. Nearly all young people today use cards to make purchases.

This card is no different to any other Visa debit card other than it does not work at the bottle shops and gambling houses and you cannot take cash out from it.

JOURNALIST: A lot of these people have mental health issues and are concerned that this is going to add to the stress and anxiety already in their lives.

ALAN TUDGE: There was no indication of that in the independent evaluation from the trial sites.

JOURNALIST: When will it be rolled out here?

ALAN TUDGE: We will begin the process from next year and we will stagger the rollout over several months.

JOURNALIST: Do you know where? Will it start in Hervey Bay, Bundaberg?

ALAN TUDGE: We have not determined that yet. We have set up a community reference group which is made up of community leaders and they have advised us to date in terms of what the parameters of the card should be and they will also advise us in terms of how it should be rolled out.

Obviously Keith Pitt the local member will lead that reference group. But it includes other senior leaders in the community.

JOURNALIST: And it is just unemployment and parental?

ALAN TUDGE: That is right, 35 years and under.

The other thing that I would say is that there is a real intergenerational welfare problem here in this community. We know that of all the people who are on unemployment benefits today, under the age of 30, 90 per cent of them had a parent who was on welfare benefits in the last 15 years.

We also know that of the people who are on unemployment benefits today under the age of 30, the best estimate is that more than half of them will continue to be on welfare in a decades’ time, unless we do something different.

That is what this card is doing. It is doing something different. We are going to test it and we think it will provide that additional motivation for a capable young person to take the jobs which are available.

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This is a location where you have thousands of backpackers come every year for work. And yet at the same time, we have thousands of people, young people, sitting idly on welfare.

I can understand why the businesses employ the backpackers. But it is not a great social policy outcome to have that situation.

KEITH PITT: I might add something on jobs, if that is alright.

Can I just say that this is clearly not the panacea. This is simply one policy which is on the table which we think will have absolute benefit.

And clearly the other thing we need to address is jobs in our local region. We are absolutely driving jobs and investment into the Hinkler electorate.

The most recent round of the building better regions fund resulted in some $15 million in federal funding. That $15 million will result in $50 million of infrastructure being built, including down at Burnett Heads.

Over 100 brand new, full time, highly paid constituents who work at IWC will expand their operations to include far more people, more professionals, more health services, and work around Burnett Heads and the local council.

Regional jobs and investment package has got $20 million for Wide Bay and right now we are very hopeful we will get a large multiplier out of that.

That could turn into $40, $50, $80 or $100 million worth of investment. So we are investing in jobs in the regions. We are trying to address very difficult local social outcomes, particularly around multigenerational welfare dependence.

I think Minister Tudge has hit the nail on the head. If you are under 30 and you are on unemployment benefits right now, in 10 years time, 57 per cent are still likely to be on Newstart.

It is very easy to sit around and do nothing, but doing nothing won’t change the outcome. We are for change. It is very important for me as a federal member and someone who was actually born in this electorate and who has lived most of their life here and worked here, that we do make better outcomes for our people. That is my job.

Any further questions?

JOURNALIST: Who will be in your community reference group?

KEITH PITT: There are a number of people in the community reference group, from Hervey Bay, right through to Bundaberg. There are representatives from Childers, from Howard, a couple from Hervey Bay, a couple from Bundaberg.

They are people who are in. We have got a couple of people here if you would like some comments, including Faye Whiffin who is on the group from Howard, and the former federal Labor member Brian Courtice are happy to make some comments.

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JOURNALIST: Will you have recipients in the community reference group, if they are subject to it?

KEITH PITT: At the moment, the people who are on there are frontline service providers absolutely trying to ensure that the cohort was right.

Secondly, we have got time now, in terms of organising the rollout. It will be in the new year. This is a large cohort of 6 or 7000 people and we want to get it right.

I might ask Faye first to come up and make a comment.

FAYE WHIFFIN: I fully support the introduction of the Cashless Debit Card because I see too many kids that are going hungry while their parents are drinking and gambling. I want to see an end to that, I want to see children having the start in life they deserve but also that the money was intended for.

I do not think that it was ever intended to go into a poker machine or into a bottle shop. The young children are our future. If we do not do something to protect our future, where are we going to be in another 20 years’ time?

Let’s put the kids first, before anything else.

JOURNALIST: Faye, have you heard from people who will be subject to this card?

FAYE WHIFFIN: I have heard from a lot of people who ask questions about it. A lot of people who thought they were going to be subject to it and they have found out they were not going to be.

A lot of older people are very much in support of it because, people that I am talking to every day, because they see the impact that it is having on kids and younger people, particularly kids.

A lot of older people are very, very, very much supportive of the children getting what they should have.

BRIAN COURTICE: I would like to congratulate Keith Pitt and Minister Alan Tudge for making this decision. There is over 1,000 kids a day going to school in Hinkler, hungry. Schools are having to provide food for them.

This is a positive way to address that because the money their parents waste on drugs and alcohol will now go into food and clothes because that is what welfare is about. It is providing the necessities for life.

It is not about drug dependency, alcohol and tobacco. It is important that we have bipartisanship across the country on this. It is working in the other three places where it has been rolled out and it will work here. We need it because we have massive welfare dependency.

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When I drove in today, I saw some blokes concreting. I saw some blokes driving haul-outs. They are the ones who are paying taxes that go into welfare and they are entitled to expect that money they pay in tax goes to feed the kids of welfare recipients, like they feed their own kids.

I think it is a wonderful outcome and let’s all work together to make it work because Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and Hinkler will benefit if we reduce drug dependency, if we reduce alcohol dependency and if kids have a full belly when they go to school.

JOURNALIST: You said it should be bipartisan, but Leanne Donaldson is not in support of this.

BRIAN COURTICE: I would not expect any better from her. She [inaudible] let alone anything else. Bill Shorten has shown and so has Nick Xenophon and so have other Labor ministers across this country - that where community has supported, they will support it.

I just dismiss her, she is a political dud.

[ENDS]