Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt. Mike Knott BUN201217PITT1

Cashless card will not be a 'cure-all': Pitt

HINKLER MP Keith Pitt says the Cashless Debit Card is "not a cure-all" fix.

"It is just one tool to try and address issues, when supported by job creation programs and support services," Mr Pitt said yesterday.

On Tuesday afternoon the Bill to expand the welfare trial to Hinkler was passed in a tight vote.

Mr Pitt said he was glad "the majority of people in the Hinkler electorate" supported the trial.

"This policy is about families, helping the children of this region and breaking the cycle of welfare dependence," Mr Pitt said.

"During extensive community consultation conducted over 18 months, the feedback from local frontline service providers was that the trial needed to include parenting payments, because the people who are being affected the most are children.

"I look forward to continue hearing from the local doctors, teachers, police, welfare workers and churches throughout the trial as it was their first-hand experience that has led to this trial being structured to assist the individuals, children and families in the cohort group."

He said the Department of Social Services was now working on establishing additional support services, which will be aided by an investment of $1m, to provide financial counselling, alcohol and drug services, job readiness programs and health services for those on the cashless card.

During Tuesday's sitting, Liberal minister Mitch Fifield said it would cost close to $13.4 million to roll out the cashless card in Hinkler after he refrained from responding when Labor senator Jenny McAllister asked for a breakdown in cost.

"Minister, a rough calculation - there are 6700 participants and it costs $2000 per person, then the cost is $13.4 million - can you confirm that the cost of the trial in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay is around $13.5 million?" she asked, to which Senator Fifield said he had nothing further to add.

The Cashless Debit Card quarantines 80 per cent of a person's welfare payment onto the card and it cannot be used to buy alcohol, gambling or withdraw cash.

About 6700 people on welfare aged 35 and under will be impacted.

Meanwhile, Mr Pitt referred to reports in the Kalgoorlie Miner which quoted senior police in the region, where the cashless card has already been introduced, saying crime was down as much as 52 per cent.

While police said it was too early to say the reduction was due to the cashless card's introduction, but it was certainly helping.

Senior Sergeant Justin Tarasinski said the full impact would be clearer as the year "rolls on". He said domestic violence levels had declined significantly.

The extension into Hinkler was passed after months of political tug o' wars, heated debates and countless amounts of controversy.

Last month the majority Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee tabled a general report that recommended the Bill be passed.

Both Labor and the Greens dissented from the report, arguing the recommendation failed to reflect the overarching evidence the trial had so far produced.

They instead drew on six recommendations an Auditor-General report provided, several of which directly addressed the need for further analysis of the trials' results to determine if the welfare card had in fact reduced social harm like it was tasked to do.

"The evidence from academics, experts and the Auditor-General is clear, the evidence isn't there to justify continuing with the card, yet the government and some of the cross-bench have gone ahead," Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.