Labor Party Senators on this Committee disagree with the recommendation
of the majority report.
Labor Senators on the Committee note their particular dissention to
paragraph 2.78 of the majority report.
Labor Senators on the Committee vehemently disagree with the statement
that 'it is the committee's view that the results of the independent evaluation
have shown the cashless debit card to have had a positive effect on communities
in existing trial sites'.
The Committee heard overwhelmingly that there has been a serious lack of
meaningful consultation in the proposed trial area of Bundaberg/Hervey Bay with
people who would be affected by the rollout of the trial.
Additionally, the Committee heard directly from a number of residents
who would become trial participants that they have significant concerns about
the impact the trial would have on their ability to budget and to meet
existing, ongoing financial obligations.
Labor Senators on this Committee note the longstanding view of the
Australian Labor Party regarding the cashless debit card trial, that new trial
locations should only be supported where there is clear evidence that the
community in question wants to participate.
Given the evidence received, Labor Senators on this Committee are of the
view that there is not sufficient evidence of broad support for the
Bundaberg/Hervey Bay communities to participate in a trial of the cashless
Lack of consultation
The Committee heard that members of the Bundaberg/Hervey Bay community
do not believe that adequate consultation about the proposed cashless debit
card trial has taken place.
Miss Wilkes, a Bundaberg resident and advocate told the Committee that
there had been 'basically...no public consultation', and that 'everybody is being
The Committee received evidence that those who would be directly
affected by the rollout of the cashless debit card were not meaningfully
Mr Feerick, another local resident, told the Committee that:
I'm somebody in the target group. I'm under 36 years of age
and I'm currently on a Centrelink payment. However, I don't have any of the
problem issues that this card is said to address. I don't smoke, I don't
gamble, I don't drink alcohol and I don't take illicit drugs; I don't take any
drugs at all. Our local federal member...didn't make any attempt to contact me or
anyone else I know in the target group to find out what our views are on the
card, as people who are directly affected.
Mr Feerick explained further:
Why has there not been a single public consultation held by a
local federal representative where members of the public, as well as service
providers and community leaders, can discuss in an open and robust fashion
issues that affect our region and determine, as a community, how to deal with
Labor Senators on the Committee understand that the Department of Social
Services (DSS) undertook information sessions in Bundaberg/Hervey Bay.
The Committee heard evidence that these sessions did not constitute
Miss Wilkes described one session:
...that wasn't a consultation. That ended up being 50 very
angry people in Hervey Bay who couldn't get any questions answered and were
told basically, 'You'll just have to learn to live a different way'.
Mr Feerick explained the process further:
...these are all individual consultations – one on one sessions
with either a federal member or with representatives from the Department of
Social Services. The sessions they held that were public were two information
sessions. This is how they were marketed...these sessions were run by DSS representatives
telling people 'this is how the card will work.' I believe there was a third
session held in Childers, but that was only open to Childers or Isis residents,
and I think that was actually predominantly held to inform members of business
and the chamber of commerce. There was also a fee of $20 to even enter.
Labor Senators on the Committee are seriously concerned by the lack of
open communication with those in the trial target group.
Labor Senators are of the view that a genuine consultation has not taken
place in Bundaberg/Hervey Bay and genuine community consent has not been
Importance of cash
Senators on the Committee heard that potential trial participants are
deeply concerned about a trial rollout could affect them.
One witness, Miss Silk, explained to the Committee how she would be
personally impacted by the cashless debit card trial:
I will not be able to pay my car finances with the 80 per
cent that's quarantined on the CDC, as mine, like other car finance accounts,
only accepts the minimum required payment via direct debit, and Indue, the
company looking after the CDC, apparently do not accept any direct debit, as
per their terms and conditions. In a region where used car lots advertise
finance for Centrelink recipients, I believe I won't be the only one with this
Miss Silk explained further:
As a person who budgets every dollar I spend, I, as do many
others in the community, need cash to make ends meet so I can shop online on
Gumtree or Facebook, on buy or swap sell sites, at garage sales on the weekend,
at markets, at cash fares and at family events. And let's not forget those
roadside huts that farmers put their fresh fruit and veg in for a fraction of
the supermarket prices. We still have many of those huts and stalls on the
sides of our roads in our region where you pay the correct cash money into a
locked box or tin that a farmer will collect at the end of the day and you take
the fresh produce that you bought. It works on trust, cash and community
DSS in evidence to the committee explained that people would have to
apply to the Department for a regular transfer of cash to meet regular direct
debit payments for approved items such as car repayments.
Labor Senators do not believe that this has any positive benefit and is an
unfair administrative burden on those who are managing the budget of a low
Labor Senators are of the view that cash plays a vital role in the local
economy, and that restricting the access of people in this area to cash could
jeopardise their ability to participate in that community.
Labor Senators particularly believe that this applies to low income
community members, who use cash to access cheaper goods and services than they
may otherwise be able to.
The Mayor of the Fraser Coast Regional Council, Mr George Seymour,
provided evidence in a personal capacity, and listed a number of harmful
impacts that he believes would occur as a result of the introduction of the
cashless debit card in Bundaberg/Hervey Bay.
Councillor Seymour told the Committee that:
having worked in the committee services sector and
representing my community, [my view] is that this bill and the policy
underpinning it goes against what we're trying to do for our community, that
being to care for it and to help people by empowering them and lifting them
up...this bill...takes away people's autonomy and humiliates them.
Additionally, Councillor Seymour told the Committee that he was
concerned that the cashless debit card trial would 'lead to a black economy' as
well as 'increased crime' in the community he represents.
Further, Councillor Seymour told the Committee of his previous
experiences of segregation, and gave evidence about his concern that the
introduction of the cashless debit card in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay could have
I grew up in an area in the US where, when I went to school,
we had lunch tickets. The people who were on social security had blue tickets
and other children had green tickets. I also grew up in apartheid South Africa.
So I've seen disadvantage. I don't understand why this is being brought to my
Members of the community also explained to the Committee that there was
a serious lack of entry level jobs in the Bundaberg/Hervey bay region.
Specifically, the Committee heard evidence that, according to a staff
member from a local job agency, they had received 'for one entry-level
job...around 400 applications'.
Labor Senators on the Committee note the Auditor-General's recent report
on the ORIMA evaluation of the cashless debit card trial.
This independent assessment has exposed the high cost of the trials,
budget overruns, a lack of effective evaluation and flawed procurement
The Auditor-General's report states:
evaluation was inadequate. As a consequence, it is difficult to conclude
whether there had been a reduction in social harm and whether the card was a
lower cost welfare quarantining approach.
By definition, the purpose of the trials is to determine whether the cashless
debit card works, and the Government has failed this fundamental policy test.
Labor Senators are of the view – informed by the Auditor-General's
report, and the evidence presented to this committee – that significantly more
work on evaluating the current trials is needed before credible claims can be
made that the cashless debit card is effective.
In light of the serious community concern about the lack of employment
opportunities, and the potential negative impacts, Labor Senators on the
Committee are of the view that it would be inappropriate to further extend the
cashless debit card trial to Bundaberg/Hervey Bay, particularly given the
inability of Government to show that the measures are effective.
Labor Senators on the Committee recommend that the Senate reject
Hon Lisa Singh Senator
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