Cashless Debit Card – 4BC

E&OE…

NEIL BREEN:
What do you know about the trial of the Cashless Debit Card? The Bundaberg-Hervey Bay Area is one of four trial sites across the country for the income management programme which allows recipients to access 20 per cent of their welfare payments in cash, the other 80 per cent is placed on a card that restricts the recipient from purchasing alcohol or gambling products. There's a bill before the Senate which must pass before the end of the year to make the Cashless Debit Card permanent. Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston is on the line. She joins me now. Good morning to you Minister.

MINISTER RUSTON:
Good morning Neil.

NEIL BREEN:
How does this work exactly, this card? How can you control people not spending it on things you don't want them to spend it on?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well we've worked with a lot of the providers around Australia in fact you know nearly a million outlets and so that it only doesn't work, the card only doesn't work in places that sell alcohol, gambling products. So what it does is it quarantines 80 per cent of the payment that somebody receives if they're on a on a working age payment to be used for all the essentials and the other 20 per cent people can take out as cash and spend on whatever they like. But it's pretty much just the same as any other credit card or debit card that any of us have got in our wallet. It's just 80 per cent of it is restricted from being able to be spent on alcohol and gambling products.

NEIL BREEN:
Is that trial taking place right now Minister?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Yes. So there's four trial sites around Australia. The one that you referred to in Queensland in the Hervey Bay-Bundaberg area has been operating now for nearly two years and we've seen some really good results in terms of young people who have been on the Youth Allowance payment, seeing them come off payment and get into a job.

NEIL BREEN:
How do you think it's helping them come off payment and get into a job?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well it is a really great budgeting tool, it helps them being able to budget their finances but it also, hopefully, prevents them from moving into a cycle where you know alcoholism or gambling addictions don't take place and that makes them more work ready and so we've seen the change. You know, when we first put this in back in 2018 we saw a significant reduction in the first year of over 16 per cent of young people in the Bundaberg-Hervey Bay area who were previously on a Youth Allowance payment came off the payment and we believe that the majority of those would've come off because they went into a job.

NEIL BREEN:
Minister I want to ask you this question from one of our listeners Dave. He says, re the Cashless Debit Card, can you ask the Minister, will it be for all welfare recipients?

MINISTER RUSTON:
In the Hervey Bay-Bundaberg area it's for recipients of JobSeeker, which is the old Newstart, the Parenting Payment and Youth Allowance, which is the younger person's version of the JobSeeker payment who are 35 years old or younger.

NEIL BREEN:
Okay, so there's a bill before the Senate now, where is the bill?

MINISTER RUSTON:
So the bill is, as you say, is before the Senate, it's passed the House of Representatives and in the next two days we are seeking to get support of the Senate for the bill to pass which will enable us to give some certainty to the trial sites that have the card in place.

NEIL BREEN:
So, so you want to get this bill through in the next two days?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Absolutely because if we don't get the bill through in the next two days income management in the trial sites will no longer be able to be in place as of 1 January. So it's very important that the Senate passes this bill in the next two days.

NEIL BREEN:
So is this bill dealing with discontinuing the trial or rolling it out across the country as the norm?

MINISTER RUSTON:
No there are no new reasons because the trial sites have come on board because the communities in those areas have fought for the card to be put in place. So what we're seeking to do by this legislation is to say to those sites that have been on the trial we will now allow you to move into a permanent measure so that they get certainty around the card going forward.

NEIL BREEN:
Yeah it's no longer a trial. Okay well it sounds like it's going fairly well. I support it, I think it's a great idea and anything that helps people spend their money properly, it's public money and welfare is there for a reason has to be supported. So I wish you all the best, the Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston, with getting that through the Senate over the next couple of days.

MINISTER RUSTON:
Thanks very much Neil.