NO VOTE: Labor says there was not enough community consultation about the Cashless Debit Card in Bundaberg.
NO VOTE: Labor says there was not enough community consultation about the Cashless Debit Card in Bundaberg. File

DECLINED: Labor against cashless card in Bundy and Bay

THE federal Labor Party will not support the roll-out of the Cashless Debit Card in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, the party announced today.

Opposition social services spokeswoman Jenny Macklin released a statement saying the party supported the Cashless Debit Card continuing in the trial communities of Ceduna and East Kimberley.

But Ms Macklin said Labor did not support the roll-out in Hinkler or WA's Goldfields because of a lack of community consultation and because of criticism of the evaluation and effectiveness of the scheme.

Under the Cashless Debit Card, some welfare recipients have 80 per cent of their payments quarantined so it cannot be used to buy alcohol, withdraw cash or gamble.

The Federal Government announced in this year's budget the card would be expanded to two new sites, and Hinkler MP Keith Pitt successfully lobbied for his seat to be one of them.

Labor has consistently said it would support the card's roll-out only where communities supported it.


Labor Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin at Ballina Council Chambers for the announcement of Labor's commitment to the support of disability care on the North Coast. Photo Patrick
OPPOSED: Labor's social services spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin. Patrick Gorbunovs

Ms Macklin said research into the scheme at Ceduna and East Kimberley done by Orima was flawed and had been panned by academics.

"Labor believes that there is insufficient credible evidence at this point to support the establishment of further trials of the cashless debit card," she said.

Ms Macklin said Labor was concerned two years was not long enough to determine the benefits of the card in the trial sites, and so the party would agree to extending the program there to June 2019, when further evaluation would be done.

Another issue was the cost of the roll-out, which Ms Macklin said had run up to $25.5 million, about $12,000 for each person taking part in the CDC scheme.

"Given the significant cost of the trials ... we must be sure that the cashless card can deliver its stated objectives," she said.


Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge in Hervey Bay to discuss the cashless welfare card.
YES VOTE: Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, holding an Cashless Debit Card, and Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt. Amanda Coop

The government announced in September that the card would be rolled out in Hinkler, covering Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, from earlier next year.

It would cover people under the age of 35 on Newstart and parenting payments.

In October, the NewsMail revealed two public question-and-answer sessions were the only times the general community could provide feedback on the CDC roll-out.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge did not visit Bundaberg before choosing it as a new CDC site, although his office claimed there was more than 100 consultations with business, churches and community groups.

All were held behind closed doors.


Opponents of the proposed cashless debit card for Hinkler at the weekend Hands in the Sand protest.
GIVE US A HAND: Protests against the card included the Hands in the Sand event in Hervey Bay in August. Contributed

Ms Macklin said Labor had always supported community-driven initiatives to tackle chronic alcohol abuse.

"But they must be genuinely community driven and not be part of a top-down approach," she said.

"In future, Labor will only consider the introduction of any new trial sites if the government can show that the community have agreed through a formal consultation process with the community, as well as an agreed definition of consent, and have established an evidence base through a robust and credible evaluation."


A government graphic comparing the 'pros and cons' of the cashless welfare card.
IN AND OUT: A basic government breakdown of how the Cashless Debit Card works.