Senator Andrew Bartlett.
Senator Andrew Bartlett.

Senator begs colleagues to oppose cashless card trial

PARLIAMENT has listened on as a Queensland Senator pleaded for his colleagues to oppose a bill that would extend the Cashless Debit Card trial to Hinkler.

On Thursday night, Senator Andrew Bartlett passionately addressed the Auditor General's report on the performance of the welfare card trial.

Branding it a "scathing report", Senator Bartlett said the document called into question the genuineness of the trial and whether it was just "all about the politics of it".

"I really want to take the opportunity to make a plea ... I very strongly oppose it, having gone to both of those communities (Bundaberg and Hervey Bay) and met with and spoken to many people there," he said.

The card - designed to prevent welfare recipients spending money on alcohol, drugs or gambling - is already being trialled by 5700 in Ceduna, SA, East Kimberley, WA and Goldfields, WA.

The Auditor General report was tabled in the Senate on Tuesday and made six recommendations to improve how data on the trial is collected. These were delivered after it reported the card's already established trials had failed to show if the cashless card was living up to its purpose and reducing social harm.

Also tabled on Tuesday was a majority report, audited by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee.

It made only one recommendation: That the bill be passed.

The proposed legislation has since been listed for discussion next week in the Senate.

Senator Bartlett implored the committee to visit Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.

"On behalf of the people of those communities, who I have visited and spoken to-unlike the government-controlled Senate committee into this proposal, who have never bothered to travel to the community that will be affected-I would really urge those crossbench senators to vote against that legislation," he said.

"This Auditor-General's report here gives plenty of reasons why.

"If there is money available to spend-because this trial will cost money, not save money-it won't generate a single job in those communities. It won't get a single person who is currently on social security into employment. It will just put more red tape around their lives. If there's money available, spend it directly in those communities and generate some employment, economic activity and services for some of those people that do need support, that the government says it's seeking to try to deal with by virtue of this trial."

Because both the Greens and Labor dissented from the committee's majority report, Senator Bartlett stressed the bill's future depended on those "on the crossbench" who had yet to commit to a view on the card.