GOING DOWN: The Senate is expected to vote down the Cashless Debit Card today.
GOING DOWN: The Senate is expected to vote down the Cashless Debit Card today. File

Senate set to block Cashless Debit Card from Hinkler

THE Senate is expected to vote down the Bill needed to roll out the Cashless Debit Card in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay when it votes on the controversial issue shortly.

The Nick Xenophon Team's three senators will be voting against the legislation, agreeing with Labor that there was not enough evidence to justify expanding the scheme.

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt, who has pushed for the card to be introduced to his electorate said it was great news that the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) passed the House of Representatives yesterday.

"So now, later this morning it will go to the Senate for consideration, where it will be more challenging because Labour and the Nick Xenophon Team are threatening to block it,” Mr Pitt said.

"This backflip from Labor is disappointing but sadly, not unexpected,” he said.

"Labor is more interested in politics, not people. They are not interested in helping the vulnerable children who live in the Hinkler electorate. Their view for the children of Hinkler is to do nothing.

"In terms of the Nick Xenophon Team, this is what happens when people vote for minor parties - chaos.

"There is still overwhelming support for the Cashless Debit Card in Hinkler.

"I am committed to this policy and will continue to fight for the electorate. It is not over yet - this policy is too important and the lives and futures of our vulnerable children are worth fighting for.

"I encourage people who live in Hinkler and want to see the Cashless Debit Card introduced to call Rebekha Sharkie this morning and tell her.”

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About 6700 welfare recipients, on parenting payments, Youth Allowance and Newstart, would be on the Cashless Debit Card if the government was able to introduce it to Hinkler.

The card quarantines 80 per cent of the person's welfare benefits from being spent on alcohol and gambling or to withdraw cash.

It has been trialled and is ongoing in Ceduna in SA and the East Kimberley in WA.

In the Senate this morning, Labor senator Doug Cameron said the Opposition support "genuinely community-driven” initiatives to tackle drug and alcohol abuse but there was not enough consultation, consensus or evidence to justify expanding the scheme.

Senator Cameron said the Opposition did not believe there was adequate support for the Cashless Debit Card in Hinkler.

Yesterday Mr Pitt made a last-ditch plea to Labor to support the legislation, saying it was the most popular government policy he'd ever seen.

In December, Labor announced it would not be supporting the roll out of the card to Hinkler and the Goldfields region in WA.

At the time, Opposition social services spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said research into the scheme at Ceduna and East Kimberley done by Orima was flawed and had been panned by academics.

"Labor believes that there is insufficient credible evidence at this point to support the establishment of further trials of the cashless debit card,” she said.

Ms Macklin said Labor was concerned two years was not long enough to determine the benefits of the card in the trial sites, and so the party would agree to extending the program there to June 2019, when further evaluation would be done.

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Another issue was the cost of the roll-out, which Ms Macklin said had run up to $25.5 million, about $12,000 for each person taking part in the CDC scheme.

"Given the significant cost of the trials ... we must be sure that the cashless card can deliver its stated objectives,” she said.

Labor did vote with the government to trial the card at Ceduna and East Kimberley.

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