RAISING QUESTIONS: University of Melbourne lecturer Elise Klein says her research has yielded vastly different results to the government's.
RAISING QUESTIONS: University of Melbourne lecturer Elise Klein says her research has yielded vastly different results to the government's. Jay Fielding

Cashless Debit Card won't fix problems

IT'S naive to think a piece of plastic could solve complex issues like domestic violence, alcoholism and substance abuse, says the university academic leading research into the Cashless Debit Card.

University of Melbourne development studies lecturer Elise Klein says Bundaberg should not expect the card to be a silver bullet for social problems.

She savaged research commissioned by the government into the trial in the East Kimberley, saying it was "methodologically flawed" and glossed over major negative findings.

Dr Klein said the research could not, for example, determine the separate impact of a takeaway alcohol management system in the area at the same time.

It also downplayed negative findings, including 29% of participants saying the card had made their children's lives worse, she said.

Dr Klein said her 13 months of research had yielded much different results.

The Federal Government trialled the card in East Kimberley and Ceduna and now wants to expand it to two more locations, possibly including Bundaberg.

Dr Klein is a member of the Australian Greens and was a Victorian senate candidate last year.

The academic, who has lectured at Oxford, said other problems with the card included a rushed and chaotic set-up, which had left people unaware and lacking required information.

Dr Klein said some participants had been locked out of the cash economy, such as cash-only businesses, informal rent arrangements and second-hand sales.

The government also promoted an app to help people track their finances, but many participants were illiterate, didn't have smartphones and weren't connected to the internet.

Dr Klein said a wealth of research on all kinds of income management in Australia had all found the idea did not achieve its objectives.

She said all of this raised the question: is the cost of the card worth it?


No increase in crime, says department

A GOVERNMENT spokesperson says the Cashless Debit Card is not a "panacea" but it had improved conditions in the two communities where it is in place.

Responding to a petition against the card with 300 signatures being presented to parliament, a Department of Social Services spokesman said the government had yet to decide on the two new locations the scheme is being expanded to.

The spokesman said research by Orima Research commissioned by the government had confirmed "proof of concept" - something which University of Melbourne community development lecturer Elise Klein disagreed with.

Proof of concept is a demonstration a theory works in the real world.

The spokesman said cashless card participants had spent more on clothes, cars, furniture and food.

In regards to one of the petitioners' main concerns, the spokesman said there had not been a real increase in crime in Ceduna or the East Kimberley while the card had been in place.

Orima reported participants being "relieved" their fears about crime waves had no eventuated.

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