Hinkler cashless card roll out one step closer
THE Cashless Debit Card is one step closer to being rolled out in Bundaberg, with legislation to trial it in Hinkler passing through the House of Representatives today.
The delivery of the bill to the Senate follows months of back and forth tug-o-wars between politicians supporting and opposing the controversial card.
An amended version of the bill - the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 - was reintroduced to Parliament last month, after the Senate blocked the original legislation in February.
Fully supporting the cashless card, Federal MP Keith Pitt said the hand up was great for Bundy and Hervey Bay.
"It's now been referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, with a report due August 14," he said.
"It is a positive step forward."
The updated bill expands the original Cashless Debit Card welfare arrangements to a fourth trial site - the Hinkler electorate - to run until June 30, 2020.
If passed, the bill will deliver the controversial card to 6700 welfare recipients across the two regions - making up more than 54 per cent of the country's total participants.
Because of this influx, the amended legislation has also increased the maximum number of participants - currently capped at 10,000 - to 15,000.
"As I said in my speech, it is time to trial the Cashless Debit Card in the Hinkler electorate," Mr Pitt said.
"As the NewsMail's own independent research showed, the majority of people of this electorate want this Cashless Debit Card implemented.
"Our workers in frontline services who see these issues every day want to see this trial to go ahead because they think it will work.
"It's time for social media campaigners and Labor deception to stop for the sake of our people, our children and their future," Mr Pitt said.
"And as I've said many, many times, doing nothing is not an option. The people of Hinkler - and the children of Hinkler - deserve to see this trial go ahead."
The cost of delivering the cashless debit card trial has been projected to be under $2000 per participant once the program is expanded to the region.
But strongly opposing the geographical widening of the trial was Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney, who said the cost of the card, which she said was currently running at over $10,000 per person, was excessive.
"The government is still trying to push ahead with this despite clear opposition from many in the local community - including the (region's) mayors," she said.
"It's money that could be better invested in local services."
In a national interview last month, Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey made it clear he wanted jobs over welfare.
During the chat on Sky News, he said: "We need to be able to get the best bang for buck for the taxpayers", and asked why the card hadn't been rolled out across the whole of Australia, "if it's so good".
The cashless card is currently being trialled by 5700 people in three different regions.
Ms Burney said the results from these regions so far were from convincing.
"Labor doesn't support further trial sites without evidence that they work, as well as proper consultation and consent from the local community," she said.
Goldfields, the most recent region to start a progressive roll-out of the cashless card, began trialling the welfare management scheme almost three months ago with 3600 people - the largest number of people added to the trial yet.
However, if the amended bill is passed by the Senate, just under 7000 Hinkler welfare recipients will be added to the trial, making up more than 54 per cent of the country's total participants.