Senator Rachel Siewert.
Senator Rachel Siewert.

Senate committee's cashless card decision is in

A REPORT tabled in Parliament tonight has recommended the Cashless Debit Card trial be rolled out in Hinkler.

The recommendation, audited by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, was brought in front of the Senate about 7pm.

While the Auditor General report into the Cashless Welfare Card trial expansion found the already existing trials had failed to show whether the card was reducing social harm, the majority committee report recommended the Bill be passed.

Dissenting from the majority report, the Australian Greens said the recommendation did not reflect the overarching evidence the trial had so far produced.

"This is the third Senate inquiry into the Cashless Welfare Card and it's still ineffective, controlling and punitive," Senator Rachel Siewert said.

"Every extension and amendment to this program is more insidious and should be seen for what it is, part of this Government's continued attacks on people who dare to access the social safety net."

A Senate committee report, delivered on December 6, 2017 recommended the legislation (which included both Hinkler and Kalgoorlie) be passed.

After it was passed up by the House of Representatives in February 2018, the Senate amended the bill to remove Hinkler.

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This prompted an amended version of the original legislation - the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 - to be reintroduced to Parliament in May. It was passed up by the House of Representatives on July 17.

In addition to the one recommendation the majority report delivered, an Auditor General report provided six further recommendations in relation to the bill.

Arguably the most notable was the committee's recommendation for a cost-benefit analysis of the card's trial to be undertaken.

The recommended probe, as well as a post-implementation review of the trial, would serve as a way to better inform the extension and further roll-out of the cashless card.

Another recommendation heard that Social Services should use all data available to measure the trial's performance.

"(Social Services) should build evaluation capability within the department to facilitate the effective review ... and the development of performance indicators," the report stated.

Senator Siewert suggested the Auditor General report had not included all the relevant data to measure the true impact of the trial.

"Yet the Government continues to use the reports to justify every single trial site expansion," she said.

"When the Government first announced these trials, I continually pointed out that the baseline data was not being collected, nor was there a comparable site without the card, with which to actually compare the card's effectiveness.

"Now the Auditor General has unsurprisingly reported that the evidence base behind reports to the Minister on the performance of the trials has been lacking.

"The Government is putting communities through a social experiment and they haven't even properly evaluated whether it is achieving its objectives."

During the senate committee's public hearing held last week, senators had the opportunity to ask questions of individuals who made submissions in support or opposition of the card.

This discussion would have directly impacted the recommendation the committee delivered to the Senate tonight.

The bill will now go back to the Senate for debate.