ACOSS welcomes opposition to national roll out of cashless debit card

7 February 2018

Contrary to extensive expert advice, the Federal Government is pushing ahead with its legislation to allow the mandatory cashless debit card to be extended to anywhere in Australia.

ACOSS welcomes opposition from the Greens, Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team to this Bill.

The Coalition government’s cashless debit card trials began in 2016 in Kununurra Western Australia and Ceduna South Australia and were designed to address perceived drug, alcohol and gambling addictions of working age people receiving income support, particularly Indigenous people. The trials are scheduled to complete June 2018.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS says there is no reliable evidence that this kind of policy works, nor is it possible to collect reliable evidence in the trial sites about the policy’s impact because no baseline data was collected.

“ACOSS opposes mandatory cashless debit,” says Dr Goldie.

“While ACOSS does not support Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team’s decision to allow continuation of the trials for another 12 months, the good news for people on income support is that this policy won’t be extended elsewhere.

“People living in Kalgoorlie and the Hinkler region – the two further proposed trial sites – can breathe a sigh of relief because their voices have been heard.

“And their message has been clear. People want to be treated with dignity and respect. 

“The imposition of mandatory cash management is deeply offensive to people on low incomes who are typically experts at managing on inadequate incomes because they have to be to survive.

“People trying to survive on income support want jobs, not their freedoms restricted nor further stigma attached to their plight.

“As a mandatory scheme, the cashless debit card screams entrapment without sufficient reliable evidence to show the trials are meeting the desired health and social outcomes.

“We are very concerned about the increase in domestic violence call-outs in Kununurra. We are worried that the cashless debit card scheme is causing more harm than good.

“ACOSS’ position is on the cashless debit card trials is clear. The cashless debit card should be voluntary, providing it has community support, with transition arrangements in place for individuals and communities wishing to remain under the card.

“Opt-in schemes should be co-designed with communities and include services as directed by communities, including wrap-around supports such as drug and alcohol, mental health, financial counselling and social support services.

“The government must abandon legislation to expand the compulsory program to other parts of Australia. They must not continue mandatory trials in Ceduna and Kununurra. They must ensure that people on income support are treated with dignity and receive the respect they deserve.”