Community organisations slam decision to continue discriminatory and punitive Cashless Debit Card

10 December 2020

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, legal services and human rights organisations have slammed the decision of the Morrison Government and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, with the abstention of the Centre Alliance in the Senate giving the government the numbers, to pass its Cashless Debit Card legislation and continue punitive, discriminatory and harmful scheme.

The amendments do nothing to improve the lives of people on social security payments in the Northern Territory. Instead they will only create confusion and continue paternalistic compulsory income control in the Northern Territory, but now with two concurrent schemes – the Basics Card and the Cashless Debit Card.

We collectively condemn the decision as a step backwards when it comes to aspirations of Closing the Gap, and a disappointing reflection of the long way we have to go before First Nations voices and the wishes and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are heard by decision-makers in Parliament House.

Cheryl Axleby, Change The Record Co-Chair:

“For thirteen years compulsory income management has denied Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the same basic rights as everyone else – to make decisions about their own money, and their own lives. It is devastating to have this legacy of paternalistic and discriminatory policy-making continued with the Cashless Debit Card. We call on the Morrison Government, Centre Alliance and all members of Parliament to start walking the walk if they are genuine about Closing the Gap, and start listening to First Nations peoples and our communities.”

Priscilla Atkins, NATSILS Co-Chair:

“The fact that the racially discriminatory Cashless Debit Card Bill was continued without conclusive evidence of its effectiveness, following a completely inadequate consultation process is deeply concerning. This Bill will have harmful and damaging consequences for our people, is in direct conflict with the Closing the Gap agreement and should have been abolished in favour of Aboriginal community-controlled and led solutions and services.”

Nolan Hunter, Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead:

“It’s hard to understand how we will ever get closer to First Nations people having their human rights respected when governments continue to treat us like second-class citizens. The CDC is dehumanising and attempts, unsuccessfully, to treat the symptoms of colonialism and dispossession.

“What we need from Government is to trust Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to know what’s best for us and to support us in community-led solutions.”

Paul Wright, National Director ANTaR
“This is punitive, a policy that disproportionately targets First Nations communities and has been repeatedly shown not to work. The existence of the Cashless Debit Card undermines the Government’s stated objective to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to close the gap.”
Josephine Langbien, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre:
“The Morrison Government has failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people once again. After completely disregarding the views of First Nations people, the Morrison Government has rammed through laws to extend the cashless debit card trials yet again, and introduce two different systems of income management in the Northern Territory. Compulsory income control in any form only serves to make life harder for people and families who have already experienced over 10 years of discriminatory social security policies.”

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS):

“In the midst of the worst recession in a century, the government has decided to subject people to the punitive and demeaning cashless debit card on a permanent basis. This card discriminates against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, is impractical, demeaning, unproven and expensive.

“Instead of punishing people for being on a low income, the government should be working with First Nations People to deliver community-led solutions as well as permanently lifting income support payments so everyone can cover the basics.

Deborah Di Natale, CEO, Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS):
“The Cashless Debit Card does not work. It is essential that any programs for Aboriginal people recognise their sovereignty, and it’s essential that communities have control and agency over matters that affect them. This is at the heart of Closing the Gap. This is the opposite of the Cashless Debit Card.”

Media Contacts:
Sophie Trevitt, Change the Record, 0431 843 095 or [email protected]
Lucy Brown, NATSILS, 0435 866 462, [email protected]
Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519
Danielle Veldre, Media Lead, Amnesty International, 0408 972 997
ACOSS Media 0419 626 155 / [email protected]
Kate Sieper, Media Officer, NTCOSS, 0466 745 65/ (08) 8948 2665 or [email protected]