The fate of Australia’s cashless debit card welfare scheme could rest with Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie and her whirlwind outback tour. Source: ABC News.
By Isabel Moussalli and Rhiannon Stevens, ABC News
Senator Lambie yesterday finished her visits to cashless debit card trial sites in Western Australia, on what she has called a “fact-finding mission” into the card’s success.
With Labor turning against the welfare scheme, Senator Lambie’s opinion will be crucial as the Senate is expected to vote on the trial’s extension next month.
A legislation amendment would extend the current trial sites until July 2021 and expand to include welfare recipients in the Northern Territory and Cape York.
The cashless welfare card operates in WA’s East Kimberley and Goldfields, Ceduna in South Australia, and recently began in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland.
Senator Lambie said she had seen “good results” at the trial sites but told the ABC she would not reveal how she would vote.
“I want to vote for it, I want to see this continue, but they [the coalition] have to deliver what they promised,” she said.
The “promise” refers to the Government’s guarantee that support services will be provided in the trial locations including drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health services, and financial counselling services.
With her trademark bluntness, Senator Lambie said she was drafting a list of conditions her vote will depend on, including the delivery of these services.
Opponents of the card, who met with Senator Lambie in Kalgoorlie this week, told her the card was failing them.
“We wanted her to know we’re normal, real people just trying to pay bills and this system isn’t working,” cardholder Sylvia Asusaar said.
She said the group was “flabbergasted” when Senator Lambie told them the cashless card would “soon” be managed by the big four banks.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) confirmed Minister Anne Ruston met with banks to discuss the cashless debit card but refused to say if banks would replace Indue — the current operator of the card.