Government defends cashless welfare trial as Greens call for money to be better spent
3rd May 2017
The Federal Government has defended the $20-million price tag for a Centrelink trial restricting how people can spend their money.
- The card quarantines 80pc of payments which cannot be withdrawn or used to gamble or buy alcohol
- Trials are taking place in Kununurra in WA and Ceduna in SA
- Government says hefty pricetag is due to start-up costs and will reduce over time
The Cashless Debit Card quarantines 80 per cent of welfare payments and cannot be used to gamble, withdraw cash or to buy alcohol.
The compulsory income management program is being trialled on about 2,000 people in two communities with high Aboriginal populations ahead of a potential expansion.
The Newstart allowance for a single person without children is $535.60 per fortnight, less than $14,000 each year.
But Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the “world-first” project was producing results and would become cheaper over time.
“New initiatives of this kind involve a high level of up-front build and set-up costs,” Mr Tudge said.
“These up-front costs include building the IT, a year’s worth of co-development of the card with local communities and merchants … and expert input on the design of the card.
“The actual running costs of the card are a fraction of the up-front costs.
“There are also significant economies of scale in the operation of the cashless debit card.”
Cashless welfare a ‘waste of money’: Greens
The Greens hate the card and said the revelations prove it “is an ideological waste of money by the Government”.
“That money should go towards … supports and programs for people struggling with drug, alcohol and gambling addiction and tackling the underlying causes of disadvantage,” Indigenous affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said.
Opposition social services spokeswoman Jenny Macklin rejected the prospect of Australia-wide welfare quarantining.
“Labor does not believe that the cashless debit card should be rolled out nationally,” Ms Macklin said.
Senator Siewert said the ALP needed to go further.
“That [opposition] should also apply to specific regions and cohorts that the Government has suggested applying the card to [including] young people or regional communities,” she said.