Labor Party Senators on this Committee disagree with the recommendation
of the majority report.
Labor referred this bill to a Senate Inquiry to ensure that adequate
consideration was given to the issues presented by removing the existing limits
on the cashless debit card trials, which require the trials end by 30 June
2018, that there be no more than three discrete trial sites and that the trial
areas include no more than 10,000 participants.
It has become clear to Labor Senators on the Committee that there has
been insufficient consultation with the communities of Bundaberg in Queensland,
and in the Goldfields in Western Australia.
Witnesses at the Kalgoorlie Hearing, in particular expressed serious
dissatisfaction with the consultation process that was undertaken prior to the
announcement of the Goldfields trial site, describing it as 'very
Senators at the Hearing heard that the consultation process in the
Goldfields was not broad enough, and that participants often felt disempowered
by the discussions. In particular, the Committee heard:
I was involved in the initial discussion. However, I felt as
though my presence at that meeting was irrelevant due to the fact that I work
full time and run my own business. My comment was to actually engage the people
of our community, not just Aboriginal but our community as a whole, to inform
them of their intentions and what the cashless card is all about.;
I think there should be more time for a consultation process.
We met with [name removed] Minister Tudge's man on the ground. I gave him my
thoughts and that, but it fell on deaf ears. They don't listen because they've
got their minds made up...there should be more consultation, especially with
Aboriginal people so that they can digest the idea of the cashless card. In
Leonora, they're not happy with the outcome up there. They weren't really
consulted...especially with Aboriginal people so that they can digest the idea of
the cashless card. In Leonora, they're not happy with the outcome up there. They
weren't really consulted...Every time there is something happening and they want
to consult Aboriginal people, they haven't got an Aboriginal person there to
explain in simple terms what's going on.;
From what I've seen as a community development officer, there
hasn't been that on-ground consultation with the people who will be a part of
the rollout of the card.;
They'd made a decision anyway, and all we were doing was
rubber stamping it.
Witnesses from Bundaberg similarly told the Committee that the
consultation process in their region had been difficult to access, and not
representative of the community.
Leanne Donaldson, the then Member for Bundaberg told the Committee that
the consultation process 'has been selective and secretive.'
Key groups from the Bundaberg region felt ignored by the consultation
process. Representatives from the Gidarjil Development Corporation explained
that 'Gidarjil is probably considered the largest Indigenous organisation in
Bundaberg, and there hasn't been any approach from the Federal Minister in
regard to this or in fact anything.'
Representatives from a community advocacy group in Bundaberg explained
that 'there has been little to no public consultation. What has taken place has
been behind closed doors.'
The bill, as written, provides no guidance as to how consent has been
established in the proposed new trial sites.
This is a point of serious concern for Labor Senators on the Committee.
Reliability of the Orima Evaluations
Over the course of the Inquiry, Labor Senators on this Committee heard
that the Orima evaluations of the trial in the East Kimberley and in Ceduna are
unreliable, and that no empirical judgements about the effectiveness of the
trials can be made on the basis of the information collected.
Dr Janet Hunt of the Australian National University expressed
significant and serious concerns about the reliability of the Orima
Dr Hunt explained that 'My assessment, based on my extensive experience
as a social scientist, is that the evaluation reports do not present adequate
evidence of the trial leading to successful outcome for participants.'
Dr Hunt further explained that 'The report's authors did make many
important caveats to the findings that they presented and these seem to have
been disregarded by the government.'
Overall, based on the data included in the Orima Evaluations, Dr Hunt
was of the view that 'The violence doesn't seem to have reduced. We haven't got
adequate data to be able to make that claim.'
The Committee heard mixed views about the effectiveness of the cashless
debit card in the existing trial sites.
Superintendent Adams of the Kimberley Police District stated that there
was 'lots of anecdotal evidence'
that the cashless debit card was effective.
This was in conflict with evidence provided to the Committee from the
Aboriginal Health Council Western Australia, who explained that:
Since the introduction of the cashless card in Kununurra
there has been an increase in crime, an increase around elder abuse, an
increase around soliciting and black market trades happening with service
providers that can trade off the card for cash. So it hasn't dealt with the
contentious issues that were identified; it has actually caused a major influx
around other issues.
Contrary to this, Superintendent Adams told the Committee that official
police figures showed a decrease in a wide variety of crimes, such as burglary,
theft and damage.
However, independent research undertaken by Monash University for the
Aboriginal Health Council Western Australia did not show these same effects.
Ms Nelson-Cox explained:
We also had a review that was undertaken by Monash
University, which found the opposite statistics. That provided us with evidence
base to say that since the introduction of the cashless card in the East Kimberley
we've had very much the opposite statistics provided to us.
It is also unclear whether the cashless debit card has had an effect on
domestic violence in the trial sites.
Superintendent Adams told the Committee that, across the entire
Kimberley district, there had been 2,600 incidences of domestic violence
reported in the financial year to 30 June 2017.
In Kununurra specifically, Superintendent Adams told the Committee that
in the 12 months to 30 June 2016, there were 319 domestic assaults in
Kununurra, but in the 12 months to 30 June 2017, this figure had increased to
Superintended Adams explained to the Committee that it was 'difficult to
assess the card from a violence perspective' as Kimberley Police had also
revised their approach to domestic violence in the same period.
The Committee also heard that the lived experience of service providers
in the Ceduna trial area were not mirrored by the findings of the Orima
Representatives of the Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Health Corporation
told the Committee that 'The actual statistics of the sobering-up unit during
the trial period were not very different from the previous year.'
Through the course of the Inquiry, the Committee has heard mixed views
of the effectiveness of the trials.
Labor Senators on the Committee are concerned that the trials in the
East Kimberley and in Ceduna have not been going for long enough to properly
ascertain whether they have been effective.
Labor Senators on the Committee are firmly of the view that a more
rigorous evaluation of the trials should be carried out.
Labor Senators on the Committee are unconvinced that the Orima
Evaluations alone provide sufficient evidence to justify the introduction of
the cashless debit card in any new communities.
Clarity regarding community panels
Labor Senators on the Committee heard that there is a lack of
information in the Ceduna and East Kimberley trial sites about how the
proportion of income quarantined can be adjusted.
Father Brennan, the Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services
There's very little community understanding as to how that
process works, and the evidence for that is that very few have been able to
transition from 80 per cent to 50 per cent.
Labor Senators on the Committee believes that it is important for trial
participants that this process be clarified, before any further trial sites are
The Committee heard that quarantining the income of people misusing
alcohol and illicit substances alone will not solve the deep and entrenched
social issues prevalent in trial communities.
Ms Zell Dodd, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ceduna Koonibba
Aboriginal Health Service Corporation explained that:
...regarding alcohol and other drug support services which were
funded as part of the cashless debit card trial in the Far West Coast region.
It is not about the cashless debit card itself; it is about the support services
and its consequences, such as little or not investment in social and emotional
wellbeing services as part of the trial. Rather than reducing the need for alcohol
and other drug support services, the view is that the trial is likely to increase
the demand for alcohol and other drug services as well as social and emotional
wellbeing services and, in fact, mental health services.
Ms Dodd explained further that the service as it stands is not able to
meet the demand, and that the funding which had initially been provided to the
organisation has been 'pulled back.'
'To make a real difference to support the trial and mainly the health
outcomes for Aboriginal people living in [the trial] community there needs to
be sustainability of service agreements.'
Labor Senators on the Committee are concerned that a lack of certainty
for wrap around services in trial communities threatens any positive outcomes
which the trials may achieve.
A clear commitment from the Government is needed on the delivery of wrap
around services before any further trials could be considered.
Evidence was provided to the Committee from representatives of the
Department of Social Services about the cost of the trial in the East Kimberley
The Committee heard that the total cost of the trial in the existing
trial sites in the first year was $17.847 million.
The Department of Social Services explained that extending the trial in
the East Kimberley and Ceduna for another year cost an additional $7.726
Labor Senators on this Committee understand that this represents a
combined cost of $25.573 million.
The Department of Social Services were unable to provide an estimate of
the cost of introducing the cashless debit card in to the Bundaberg and
Labor Senators on the Committee understand that this is due to the
information being classified as commercial-in-confidence.
Labor Senators on the Committee are concerned that a significant
financial commitment is being made for a program where the effects are in
Labor Senators on this Committee recommend that the Senate
not pass the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill
2017 in its current form.
Labor Senators believe that there is an insufficient basis
to establish further trials at this stage and therefore recommend that the bill
be amended to:
Create a trial end date of 30 June 2019 for Ceduna and the East
Limit the trials to only two existing, discrete trial areas;
Oppose the removal of the limit of 10 000 participants;
Specify how people in the trial areas who are on the cashless
debit card can have the proportion of their income support payments on the card
reduced or exist the trial; and
Guarantee funding for wrap around services.
Senator the Hon Lisa Singh Senator Murray Watt
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page