Supermarkets and servos top for card sales
MORE than half of the businesses accepting quarantined welfare money from the federal government’s cashless debit card are supermarkets and petrol stations.
The card, which takes up to 80 per cent of welfare payments and is unable to be used to buy alcohol, gambling products or be withdrawn as cash., was rolled out in the Hinkler electorate in January.
According to figures obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws, the predominant merchants to process transactions from the card between April 2016 and last July were food-related (37 per cent), mostly supermarkets.
The second-highest usage was for transport (17 per cent), mostly fuel outlets and separate to any public transport or travel. The Department of Social Services did not have any data on specific purchases to release under FOI.
While the card can be used to pay rent and utility bills, those vendors accounted for 3 per cent and 1 per cent respectively.
The Australian reported there were calls for the card to be rolled out across Australia to prevent social harms from alcohol abuse and excessive gambling. Critics say there is no evidence it has achieved its aims and rather than encourage wiser choices, the card imposes unnecessary restrictions.
Some vendors also increase costs, through minimum quantities and surcharge fees, while consumers are unable to obtain cash discounts.
In a submission to a parliamentary committee inquiry on the proposed extension, researchers Matthew Gray and Rob Bray, from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, said the card was unfairly punitive: “For those who do not drink alcohol, let alone in excess, use illegal substances or engage in the inappropriate behaviours the policy claims to address, and who have managed their households effectively, often on meagre resources, placement on these measures is humiliating.”
They noted people who wanted to misuse their money could still trade, sell card-purchased items or collude with vendors.