No to the Cashless Card

Last year the Liberal Party and Labor Party ganged up (again) to legislate for “cashless welfare card trials” aka another patronising, paternalistic and ideologically driven attempt to manage the money and hence lives – of people living below or near the poverty line on income support.

The Government will put 80 per cent of a person’s income support on a “cashless card” — leaving just 20 per cent spare to withdraw as cash. According to the Government, it’s meant to stop people spending money on alcohol, drugs and gambling… It won’t.

This is a form of compulsory income management and evidence shows that doesn't work. What it will do is take choice, control and dignity away from people trying to live off very little.

Add your name to send a message to the Libaral and Labor Party to have the courage to reverse your position and abandon trials that will highly likely lead to a broader roll out of this destructive scheme that will hurt so many.

Concerns about cashless welfare cards

This card is being implemented in the three trial sites, and people on working age income support payments will only be able to get 20 per cent of their payments in cash. The rest can only be used on the card, which means it can only be used at stores or supermarkets where credit or debit cards are accepted.

The trial will begin in Ceduna despite strong community opposition, followed by the East Kimberley, with the rumoured third site being Geraldton. There is clear concern in Geraldton about the card and its potential impacts.

Listen to the evidence

The evidence from the NT Intervention shows that paternalistic income management does not reduce disadvantage. This is another patronising, paternalistic and ideologically driven attempt to manage the lives – and money – of people living under the poverty line.
What it will do is take choice, control and dignity away from people trying to live off very little.

Instead we should be properly funding wrap around services and turning our attention to the underlying causes of alcohol and drug abuse which the Government claims these trials are about. Restricting someone’s cash is not an effective way to stop addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling. We must have the courage to do better.

It should have been rejected by the Labor Party. Not just because it robs people of choice and dignity and doesn't work, but because there are so many unanswered questions about how the scheme is meant to work.

Unanswered Questions about Cashless Welfare Cards

1. What happens if you lose your card?

The Government claims that it will be possible to print cards at the trial site. However, they failed to identify any details about how this would happen, and how people could manage on weekends if they left the area they usually lived in.

2. What about if shops charge you a surcharge for using your card?

This scheme targets people on income support who are living below or near the poverty line — that means every dollar counts. The Government acknowledges that while they will pay any bank fees they won't pay merchant fees (ie surchages).They say they are working with merchants to try and reduce fees on the trial site, but at estimates they admitted they have been unsuccessful in getting merchants to drop the charges. They are not talking to merchants outside the trial site. So even if they reduce fees in the trial site when people travel they will have to pay standard fees.

3. What if a shop has an EFTPOS minimum?

The Government was unclear; it said it would *try* to remove minimum EFTPOS limits in Ceduna. Try.

4. And what about if the satellite signal stops working in remote regions and the EFTPOS machines stop working?

It happens! And the Government doesn’t know.

5. What happens to those people who don’t want to be part of a trial where the government tries to manage their money? What happens if they leave the trial site?

If you are forced to be a part of the trial, even if you leave, you will still remain on the trial until you no longer meet the ‘trial eligibility requirements’, or until the trial is over.

6. So, a community panel gets to decide how much money you can get in cash if you want to decrease the per cent quarantined. In small towns, these people could be your neighbours and you have to tell them your financial details. What happens if they reject your request for more money?

Not much. There aren’t clear details on how decisions will be reviewed, or if people can apply for an independent review.

7. How about evaluating the trial? Keen on finding out if it really works?

The Government couldn’t answer this one properly either. They do not have a mechanism to evaluate the role of the card in the so called trial as they have no comparable community receiving just additional services and not the card. The Government in estimates admitted they would not provide funding for services to another community without the debit card trial to provide a meaningful comparison.