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Evidence continues to stack up against Cashless Debit Card

The Greens have tabled a dissenting report to the inquiry into the Government’s Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020 saying that there isn’t evidence to justify the use of the card, that in fact the process adversely impacts people and should be abandoned.
 
“Through this inquiry process and over many years, the Government and supporters of this card have failed to provide any quantitative evidence that the card has met any of its objectives”, Greens Spokesperson on Family and Community Services Senator Rachel Siewert said.  
 
The Government has also failed to commit to releasing the next evaluation before the legislation is voted on and the Committee has not had access during its determination. Just today a University of South Australia researcher said she was surprised by how little evidence there is to support the introduction of a Cashless Debit Card. 
 
In the final sitting weeks of 2020, the Senate will again be forced to vote on a complex and divisive piece of legislation in a short time-frame while many questions remain unanswered. 
 
One such question is whether the Government will choose to place new income support recipients in the four trial sites onto the Cashless Debit Card. 
 
The Minister paused new entrants being placed on the Cashless Debit Card in March, it is unclear whether this pause will remain in place once the card becomes permanent. People have a right to know whether they will be placed onto the Cashless Debit Card before the scheme becomes permanent. 
 
The Greens reject any proposition that genuine, two-way consultation has occurred with First Nations communities or anyone currently on the Cashless Debit Card about the proposal to make the scheme permanent. 
 
Many submitters highlighted that the absence of any real consultation with First Nations communities goes against the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap which has been founded on the principles of shared decision-making and self-determination. 
 
There has been little to no transparency around the cost of implementing and rolling out the Cashless Debit Card. The future outputs for the scheme are shrouded in secrecy and ‘commercial in confidence’ agreements with the cardholder, Indue. The community only ever discovers the cost of the scheme after the fact.
 
This Bill is no different. We have no understanding of how much it will cost to permanently entrench the Cashless Debit Card, lift the cap on the number of participants who enter the scheme, and roll it out to the Northern Territory.
 
This scheme goes to the broader question of a private company, in this case Indue, profiting from our social security system. 
 
There is no evidence to support the entrenchment of this punitive scheme and the Senate crossbench must reject it.
 
In the middle of a global pandemic and Australia’s first recession in 30 years, the Government has chosen this moment as the right time to make the Cashless Debit Card permanent. 
 
It is astounding that the Government refuses to make any decisions about the base rate of the Jobseeker payment due to the changing economic conditions but is happy to try and entrench compulsory income management.
 
The Greens dissenting report can be found here.
 

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Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180

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