ONUS OF PROOF: Nick Xenophon Team spokeswoman Rebekha Sharkie says the party wants to see more evidence before supports a wider roll-out of the Cashless Debit Card.
ONUS OF PROOF: Nick Xenophon Team spokeswoman Rebekha Sharkie says the party wants to see more evidence before supports a wider roll-out of the Cashless Debit Card.

Cashless Debit Card dead in Bundaberg ... for now

THE Cashless Debit Card has been blocked from Hinkler but locked in for WA's Goldfields region.

In a compromise on Monday night, SA's three Nick Xenophon Team senators agreed to support the Goldfields as the third trial site for the income management program.

But, they said, they needed more evidence before they'd support a wider roll-out to other places such as Hinkler.

It's now likely the government will have to introduce specific legislation for any locations it wants to expand the scheme to in the future.

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt, who led the charge for the card's roll-out in Hinkler, said he was disappointed with the Opposition.

"This was a policy strongly supported by the Hinkler community and one that would have made a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children,” Mr Pitt said.

"Unlike the Labor party, I will not give up on the children in Hinkler,” he said.

"Clearly the Labor party puts its ideological opposition to the Cashless Debit Card ahead of the welfare of our community.”

Mr Pitt said Social Services Minister Dan Tehan had, during his visit to Bundy on Friday, heard first-hand about the need for the card in Hinkler.

"He said he won't stop fighting for this card to be rolled out in Hinkler and neither will I.”

Mr Tehan yesterday said the card was introduced to break the cycle of welfare dependency by helping people manage their income.

"After 12 months of operation, people living in Ceduna and East Kimberley reported that drinking, drug taking and gambling had decreased,” Mr Tehan said.

"The Cashless Debit Card is making a difference,” he said.

Mr Tehan said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited Kalgoorlie-Boulder and met with community leaders who told him they wanted more tools to address the impact of alcohol, drugs and gambling on their people.

"It is significant that this community can now access the card,” he said.

"It will make a real difference to people's lives.

"I will continue working with all parties to expand the roll-out of the card, including Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.”

Opponents of the card in Hinkler were celebrating today but were disappointed the card is to be implemented in Goldfields.

"A big thank you to everyone involved in this fight,” campaigner Peter Feerick said.

"Together we have managed to make the LNP backdown,” Mr Feerick said.

"However, our thoughts should now go to those in the Goldfields who will now be put on the card within the next six months, and those who have been on the card in Ceduna and East Kimberly.

"The fight is not over.”

Three trial sites were authorised under original legislation the government used to implement the card in Ceduna in SA and East Kimberley in WA.

People on the card have 80 per cent of their welfare benefits quarantined from being used to buy alcohol, gamble or withdraw cash.

In Hinkler, the card was going to be rolled out to people under the age of 35 on Newstart, Youth Allowance and parenting payments, about 6700 people.

Following evaluation of the trials, which the government said were successful, funding was allocated in last year's budget for the card's roll-out at two new sites.

According to the final evaluation done by Orima Research, 41 per cent of drinkers reported drinking less, 37 per cent reported binge drinking less; 48 per cent of gamblers reported gambling less; 48 per cent of drug takers reporting using illegal drugs less often; and 40 per cent said they were better able to care for their families.

However, many academics criticised Orima's research and the methodology used.

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Goldfields, centred on the twin cities of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, was announced as the third days before Hinkler was announced as the fourth.

In December, Labor threw the government's plans into a spin by announcing it was not going to support further roll-outs as it did not believe the evidence the card worked was comprehensive enough.

The amended Bill will now return to the lower house for its approval.



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