NSW Government considers cashless welfare card rollout across state
19th July 2017
Billionaire founder of Fortescue Metals Group, Andrew Forrest has met with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to push for a cashless welfare card to be rolled out across New South Wales.
Created by Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, the income management scheme quarantines 80 per cent of a person’s welfare money and cannot be used for alcohol, gambling, illicit drugs or be withdrawn as cash.
“It is drugs and alcohol that is stopping our Indigenous brothers and sisters from going further, which leads to the hideous depression,” Mr Forrest said.
“I will do everything I can because I have seen the despair, the want and destruction that’s happening among vulnerable and Indigenous Australia.”
Mr Forrest is one of Australia’s biggest philanthropic donors and has set up Indigenous employment drives across the country hiring thousands of people.
Indigenous disparity is an issue close to home for Mr Forrest; his family has adopted three Indigenous children.
The mining magnate met the Premier on Thursday to select regions in NSW where the scheme could be rolled out.
“NSW regions are howling for the card and the Federal Government is yet to be persuaded to invest the political capital in NSW,” Mr Forrest said.
While visiting Wollongong on Tuesday the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian acknowledged the income management scheme was being considered across the state.
“I am always willing to consider pilots and opportunities to improve quality of life especially in our remote communities who don’t have access to services that others do,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
The Premier thanked Mr Forrest for his aspirations for New South Wales.
“We are always willing to listen to people’s ideas and appreciate people are very inspired and passionate about wanting to improve quality of life for the citizens of this state.”
Premier Berejiklian would not give any detail on the specific locations under consideration.
“We are considering what we can do to support our most rural and remote communities, are always open-minded because as a government we want to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, we are listening to those who’ve done it elsewhere,” she said.
The debit card has been trialled for almost 18 months in the East Kimberley towns of Kununurra and Wyndham, and Ceduna in South Australia, which Mr Forrest said had proven a huge success.
“Forty per cent of parents admitted looking after their children better, where drug and alcohol consumption has collapsed, where purchase of groceries has never been higher, fresh meat, school uniforms — welfare’s getting spent on the things it should,” Mr Forrest said.
He saw it as vital for those aged under 18 too.
“There is simply no argument that we are giving cash to homeless children, they should not have a need to go to the pub or buy illicit drugs,” he said.
Critics of Mr Forrest have labelled him a billionaire, with no qualifications on the topic.
“And I say to them: When were you last in a jail? When did you last go and speak to 300 aboriginal people how to not suffer recidivism to land straight back in jail?”
Through his mining enterprises Mr Forrest has hired thousands of Australians, but he said those opportunities were not being taken up in some Indigenous communities.
“I’m unable to train any Aboriginal people in my region because everyone who could be and therefore could be employed can’t do the training because of drugs and alcohol and we’ve reached this road block in New South Wales.”
Mr Forrest said Indigenous disparity would be eliminated by giving people a hand up, not a hand out, which would also save the nation billions of dollars.
Editor’s note (19/7/17): This story has been amended to remove personal details of Mr Forrest’s family.