The controversial cashless debit card permanency Bill has been amended to extend the trial for another two years after the two Senators whose votes hinged on the success of making the policy permanent aired their opposition to the Bill.
A previous supporter of the cashless debit card, Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie voiced her opposition to the Bill via Twitter on Wednesday.
She said the card had been “watered down” from its original policy proposal five years ago and claimed the card was “hit and miss”.
One way or another, the Cashless Debit Card’s going to get voted on this week. When that happens, I’ll be opposing it.
Here’s why — pic.twitter.com/Yr0yVx1kDa
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) December 9, 2020
“The cashless debit card’s trial has had more lives than most trials get,” she said in a statement.
“There are people who feel the pain of this policy failure, by being forced onto this card without getting any benefit from it.”
The cashless debit card quarantines 80 per cent of a recipient’s welfare payment and can be used at accepted outlets only. Current independent research shows the card has no substantive effect on the behaviours it’s targeting.
It came down to South Australian Senator Rex Patrick, who was recently taken to Ceduna – one of the current trial sites – by Social Services Minister Anne Ruston to visit residents on the cashless welfare regime.
Senator Patrick released a statement prior to the vote on Wednesday announcing he would not be supporting the permanency Bill.
The Senator said the government has failed to put any data on the table that shows the card is effective.
— Rex Patrick (@Senator_Patrick) December 9, 2020
“I’ve been to Ceduna, I’ve been to the Northern Territory, I’ve talked to leaders of the community, I’ve talked to businesses, but most importantly, I’ve talked to people who are required to use the card,” he said.
“On balance, I can’t support the card. It doesn’t do what it’s intended to do, it causes too much harm.
“After weighing everything up, I’m not convinced, and I won’t be voting for the card.”
A point of contention across both chambers has been the refusal of the government to release a $2.5 million evaluation report by the University of Adelaide, which Minister Ruston has previously admitted to not reading despite having already introduced the permanency Bill.
While the Senate rejected the permanency Bill, the card trial was extended for another two years due to last-minute amendments that saw Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff abstain from the vote.
Instead of forcing Northern Territory BasicsCard users to transition to the cashless debit card, they will now be able to choose between the cards.
“I am convinced that income management participants in the NT will see the value of switching over to the Cashless Debit Card but at the same time I understand the decision must be theirs,” Minister Ruston said in a statement.
The Minister said the continuation of the card is in “direct response to calls from community leaders” who say the card is ensuring more money is spent on “essentials”.
Labor party heavyweights Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney have been campaigning hard against the card, while Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has remained relatively silent on the matter – despite the card’s disproportionate effect on Indigenous people.
— malarndirri mccarthy (@Malarndirri19) December 9, 2020
A divisive measure, many community organisations oppose the cashless debit card. Some supporters of the card include the Cape York Institute, Wunan Foundation and the Minderoo Foundation.
Many are in opposition to the card, including the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Anglicare Australia and Change the Record.
By Hannah Cross