The Greens have condemned the Labor party for betraying people on income support, most of whom are First Nations people, by reversing their election pledge to abolish the Cashless Debit Card.
Today, Labor and the Liberals teamed up to pass Labor’s new Income Management Reform Bill, which takes the legislative framework for the BasicsCard and applies it to the new ‘SmartCard’. The SmartCard is managed by the same company, Indue, who ran the Cashless Debit Card scheme, and is effectively the Cashless Debit Card by another name.
The Greens successfully negotiated for Labor support for amendments requiring Ministerial reports on the cost of the Indue SmartCard, reviews of the impact of the scheme by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, as well as oversight by the Community Affairs References Committee for any proposed expansion of compulsory income management.
While the Greens welcome the Parliament’s support in making a bad bill better, these measures were not enough to secure Greens support for this discriminatory bill.
Senator Janet Rice, Greens spokesperson for Social Services, said:
“Labor promised voters they would abolish the Cashless Debit Card. Now they’re rolling it out again, just with new branding.
“Between the Cashless Debit Card 2.0, the measly $2.85 a day increase to Jobseeker, and refusing to help renters during the worst housing crisis in generations, Labor has no business calling itself the party of the working class.
“The bills Labor are bringing to the Parliament ensure the housing crisis will get worse, abandon millions of renters to unlimited rent increases and poverty, and leave those already in poverty in dire situations.
“Labor have now gone further than the Liberals did in expanding the racist and entirely ineffective compulsory income management system. We don’t need another Conservative Party in this country.
“In the same week as securing the Voice referendum, Labor teamed up with the Coalition and PHON to pass a racist bill that overwhelmingly targets First Nations people, against the wishes of key First Nations organisations, including the Central Land Council and the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, that gave evidence to the bill’s inquiry. The hypocrisy is astounding.
“Despite Labor’s false claims, the bill is not a simple matter of improving technology. This is a sneaky and insidious bill that significantly expands the Minister’s power to roll out compulsory income management in new areas, and effectively allows the new Cashless Debit Card to apply nationally, despite Labor’s campaign against CDC in opposition.
“The only differences between Labor’s SmartCard and the Cashless Debit Card are its name and colour.
“Labor have betrayed their pledge to voters at the last election. Under the Labor Government, more than twenty thousand people are still trapped under compulsory income management. We need a voluntary system that genuinely supports people.
“Labor voted down the Greens amendment for a sunset clause that would have ensured an eventual end date to compulsory income management, which even the former Cashless Debit Card legislation had in place.
“While the Greens successfully negotiated with Labor to pass three amendments that ensure more transparency, accountability and Parliamentary oversight, it was not enough to ensure our support for what is ultimately a discriminatory, draconian bill that traps people in poverty.
“The Greens, advocates, academics, and people on income management will continue to pressure Labor until they keep their promises and scrap compulsory income management for good.”
Amendment sheet 1966 is here, linked on this page https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_LEGislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6989
- Item 1 – imposes a sunset date for compulsory income management. This is based on the 18 month consultation period outlined by the Minister in a media release of September 2022.
- Item 2 – requires regular reporting on the costs of the SmartCard scheme. This reflects the Labor party’s focus in opposition on the costs of the Cashless Debit Card.
- Item 3 – requires regular review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. Given the significant concerns that have been raised about human rights, this is a basic step that we think is a small step towards what’s needed.
- Item 4 – requires review by the Community Affairs Committee of the use of Ministerial powers. Given that the bill significantly expands the Ministerial power to roll out income management in new areas, we think this is a basic oversight.
- Item 5 – enables an exit clause for people at risk of harm from the card. There was an exit clause from the Cashless Debit Card, for those at risk of harm; but none in the SmartCard legislation – so we think this is a very straightforward step.