Coalition Senators' Additional Comments

Coalition Senators' Additional Comments

1.1Coalition Senators thank all those who have provided submissions and testimonies to the committee’s inquiry, especially witnesses who have provided difficult on-ground accounts of the challenges and problems faced by communities once the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) was suddenly withdrawn, without consultation.

1.2Coalition Senators do not oppose passage of this legislation but we have serious reservations about aspects of this bill, including governmental management of the transition to the new 'SmartCard', particularly regarding the welfare of vulnerable Australians.

1.3This bill represents a significant policy shift in income management from that of the previous government. It represents Labor’s ongoing abandonment of the successful CDC arrangements.

1.4The CDC was making a real difference on the ground in communities with severe social problems associated with the consumption of alcohol, drugs, gambling and violence, especially in communities with high rates of long-term social security dependency.

1.5Moving from a mandatory income management system to a voluntary system completely undermines the principles underlying the CDC.

1.6Witnesses have provided compelling testimonies indicating that the discontinuation of the CDC has resulted in significant adverse social consequences:

1.7Mr Patrick Hill, President of the Shire of Laverton, stated:

When the cashless card came in, it gave us breathing space to relieve the alcohol problems that we had up there. It allowed people that were on the alcohol all the time to feed their kids and learn what three meals a day does to you and good healthy living.

Since the cashless card's gone, it's gone back to the way it was prior to the cashless card. It's sad to say there's domestic violence, and violence practically every night, up there in Laverton. Leonora's experiencing the same issues … because it's the next town on from us …

The cashless card income management did work up [in Laverton]. We feel the new system you're bringing in is a positive way forward, but unless it's compulsory we're very sceptical whether it will work or not. We cannot see these people that are permanently on the alcohol going onto this voluntarily, if it's made voluntary.[1]

1.8This retrogradation is also reflected in the testimony provided by Ms Cheryl Cotterill, a life-long Leonora resident, as read out by Mr Peter Craig, President of the Shire of Leonora:

After the initial rollout, once people had worked out how to live on the CDC, most of them were happy that there was still money in their account once the 20 per cent of their Centrelink payments had been spent.

However, within weeks of the CDC being withdrawn, I amongst many others noticed the drunkenness and antisocial behaviour increasing dramatically and lasting throughout the day.[2]

1.9The Labor government has repeatedly claimed no negative impacts have followed the removal of the CDC. In sharp contrast, evidence presented during the inquiry by prominent local member of the community Mr Craig suggests otherwise:

We understand that there is a fair bucket of money coming through, but, along with that, the wraparound services are just a must. They were taken out of our communities and based in regional centres like Kalgoorlie, which is 200 and 300 kilometres away. The issue with that is that it just seems that the boxes are ticked. They come up for a day and see somebody and go back. It's not really working.

It takes a long time for an Aboriginal person to work up the confidence with anybody who may be coming out of any of the service providers over a period of time. Certainly, for us, these providers need to be on the ground all the time in our communities and be a part of our communities.[3]

1.10Thus, it is vital that the accuracy of the claim made by the Labor government and the impact of wrap-around services promised by the government are subjected to careful monitoring and is duly assessed by Parliament.

1.11Coalition Senators therefore recommend the inclusion of time limited monitoring of key social indicators in the former CDC areas. If the government truly believed its actions are making a positive difference in these communities, it would not fear the inclusion of such a provision.


1.12Should it be returned to government, the Coalition has reaffirmed its commitment to reinstating the CDC in communities who seek to have it, to continue an initiative that has demonstrably delivered better lives and more meaningful outcomes for thousands of Australians.

Recommendation 3

1.13That for a period of three years from Royal Assent, the government publish details of key metrics of social harm, including—but not limited to—rates of violent crime, presentations to Emergency Departments, call-outs to ambulance services, and incidents of domestic violence within all of the former Cashless Debit Card sites.

Senator Slade BrockmanSenator Wendy Askew


[1]Mr Patrick Hill, President, Shire of Laverton, Committee Hansard, 15 May 2023, p. 24.

[2]Mr Peter Craig, President, Shire of Leonora, Committee Hansard, 15 May 2023, p. 24.

[3]Mr Peter Craig, President, Shire of Leonora, Committee Hansard, 15 May 2023, p. 25.