Fed Govt hails Cashless Debit Card trial a 'success'
THE Cashless Debit Card has led to a major drop in alcohol abuse, binge drinking, illegal drug use and gambling in trial areas, according to a new report.
The Federal Government has declared its two trials sites - Kununurra in Western Australia's East Kimberley and Ceduna in South Australia - a "success”, after a landmark 300-page report released yesterday found the card rollout had a "considerable positive impact” on both communities.
The evaluation, conducted by Orima Research, found 41% of drinkers reported drinking less and 37% binge drinking less; 48% of gamblers reported gambling less and 48% of drug takers reporting using illegal drugs less often.
The report comes as the government expands the sites to include the West Australian Goldfields.
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt, a strong proponent for the welfare card, said the report backed his long-held arguments.
"When I first started talking about the Cashless Debit Card I said it could be the catalyst for positive change in the Hinkler electorate,” Mr Pitt said.
"While no decision has been made if the Cashless Debit Card will be implemented in this community, the Orima Research report reinforces the positive impact the card is having on the trial sites.”
The report found that 40% of participants who had caring responsibility reported that they had been better able to care for their children.
"There has been a decrease in requests for emergency food relief and financial assistance in Ceduna, and merchant reports of increased purchases of baby items, food, clothing, shoes, toys and other goods for children,” Mr Pitt said.
Bundaberg MP Leanne Donaldson, an outspoken advocate against the card, did not comment on the report's findings but did urge the public to be cautious.
"Given that the report has only just been released I would like to take my time to read and digest its contents before commenting,” Ms Donaldson said.
"However, if it has similarities to the interim report by Orima I would urge caution as there were many flaws including sample sizes too small to extrapolate any findings.
"Once I have read it I am more than happy to comment.”
Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge, who has led the design and implementation of the trials, said the evaluation demonstrated that the trials had been a success in reducing alcohol, gambling and drugs.
"The card is not a panacea, but it is has led to a fundamental improvement in these communities. There are very few other initiatives that have had such impact,” Mr Tudge said.
"As many local leaders noted, these communities were in crisis largely due to massive alcohol consumption paid for by the welfare dollar.
"I hope that we can look back in a decade's time and say that this initiative was the beginning of the turnaround.”