20 Jan 2016 — There have been talks for over a year now about a cashless welfare card, and it seems we’re getting even closer to a national roll out.
According to The Australian, the card aimed at welfare recipients would be rolled out across the country under a welfare reform the Turnbull government is considering taking to the election.
However the plan feels a little optimistic: the Healthy Welfare Card is still yet to be trialled in regional areas.
The Australian understands the Coalition may seek an election mandate to extend the card to welfare recipients across regional Australia if they achieve positive results.
With the welfare card, 80 per cent of a person’s government cheque would be put on a bank card that could not be used to buy alcohol and gambling products, nor drawn from out of an ATM.
Last year, the government successfully passed legislation to allow the card to be trialled in three test sites, affecting up to 10,000 welfare recipients, beginning in the far-west South Australian town of Ceduna next month, and the East Kimberley in northern Western Australia in March.
Melissa Price, MP for Durack, is pushing for the regional centre of Geraldton in WA to become the third trial site, which would allow the government to test the card in a city where the majority of welfare recipients are non-indigenous.
“Obviously it is subject to the results of the trial, but it is very interesting to see how this could get rolled out in a major city as this is not just a problem in the bush,” she said.
And if the card were to be rolled out across all regional communities in Australia, up to 100,000 people on government income support could be affected.
Assistant Minister for Social Services Alan Tudge, said he hoped the card was the “solution” to alcohol abuse.
People drawing the age pension will not be forced onto the restrictions, but they would have the option to volunteer for the cashless card. “I believe that many people will,” Mr Tudge said.
“Because certainly amongst some communities they might get targeted or humbugged for money if they’re the only ones that have an access of money there.
“So we’re going to provide that opportunity for people to give them that protection should they choose to have it”.
One commenter on The Australian believes all pensioners should be given the card. “Shouldn’t ALL welfare recipients be given the card? I see no reason to exempt the unemployed or those on a disability pension, or similar taxpayer funded stipend”.