Labor MP Julian Hill has called on the government to support his private member’s bill to end the cashless debit card trial for welfare recipients, to put the minds of pensioners at ease.
The cashless debit card program, which has been forced on some people in regional communities, places 80 per cent of a person’s welfare payments on a card that cannot be used to withdraw cash or buy alcohol or gambling products.
Mr Hill’s bill, which he will introduce to parliament next week, would implement Labor’s policy, which includes scrapping the controversial debit card and replacing it with a local jobs plan for the areas where the card is in use (Ceduna, East Kimberley, Kalgoorlie, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay).
In June, federal Labor MP Justine Elliot told Parliament that the government had plans to force pensioners onto the cashless welfare card after the next federal election, but social services minister Anne Rushton denied this was the case.
Mr Hill explained that his bill contained transparency measures that would force the government to reveal the total cost of the card with private provider Indue, and also force them to table the contracts and reveal the extent to which the card would be rolled out in other settings.
“Enough is enough. This bill will scrap the scheme and stop the government forcing the card onto all age pensioners,” Mr Hill told The Guardian.
“The minister will have to come clean, release the secret contracts with Indue and confess how much taxpayer money has been wasted.”
Mr Hill said that despite the government amending legislation to remove the power to extend the card to pensioners, they should “put pensioners’ minds at ease” by supporting the Labor bill.
Earlier this month, Senator Ruston announced a plan for new employment hubs to be set up in areas where the cashless welfare card was being trialled.
She said the hubs would provide additional support to unemployed people in these areas.
“The Morrison government is committed to helping cashless debit card participants to upskill, become job ready and get on pathways to employment,” Senator Ruston said.
“It will also support participants in the NT to boost financial and digital literacy skills, gain control of their finances and be on pathways to self-reliance, empowerment and employment.”
Senator Ruston told the ABC that engagement with the employment hubs would be optional.
“It’s not a compulsory mechanism, but we would be very keen to encourage people who are on unemployment benefits to avail themselves of this opportunity to make themselves job-ready,” she said.
Do you think the government has plans to move all welfare payments, including those for age pensioners, onto the cashless debit card? Do you believe the government will continue to exclude pensioners from the scheme? What do you think of the scheme overall? Do you support it? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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