Cashless Debit Card – ABC Adelaide

E&OE…

ALI CLARKE:

Well it's a good morning to Anne Ruston, the Minister for Families and Social Services.

MINISTER RUSTON:

Good morning.

DAVID BEVAN:

Anne Ruston, did you get a victory or was it a draw on the issue of the cashless debit card last night?

MINISTER RUSTON:

David I think that the result that we got in the Senate was something that I think is a very positive outcome for the communities around Australia that have requested and supported this particular action and programme in their community so I think it was a good outcome and it was what the communities had asked for.

DAVID BEVAN:

Well explain to our listeners what you got. Because you didn't get everything you wanted.

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well what was agreed to in the Senate last night was that the current four Cashless Debit Card sites around Australia, one of which is in South Australia in the Ceduna region, was an extension for another two years to do more work most particularly to make sure that we can gather the data to back in the results of the impact the card has had in supporting the community along with all the other services that go with the card. We also got the approval of the Senate last night to start rolling out the Cashless Debit Card to replace the existing programme that is in the Northern Territory, it's not a new programme in the Northern Territory, it’s to replace the card, the Cashless Debit Card with the Basics Card which is currently the card that's used in the Northern Territory. So they're the two main headline items but there were a number of other things included last night but they're the two main headline items.

ALI CLARKE:

And can you just explain what is different between what the Northern Territory have been going through, but more specifically why the Ceduna model, as such, is where this is headed?

MINISTER RUSTON:

The Ceduna model, or the Cashless Debit Card, is a very, very advanced piece of technology. In fact it's quite the same as any other debit card that you or I or any of your listeners would have in your wallet right now. It works on EFTPOS machines, you can buy absolutely anything and everything that you would buy with that card with the exception of alcohol and gambling products and that’s the only things that are restricted so whereas the basics card is pretty much what it's called, it's pretty basic, works in 16,000 locations whereas the Cashless Debit Card works in every place with an EFTPOS machine which is nearly a million places in Australia so it is a very, very advanced piece of technology.

DAVID BEVAN:

The Greens say this is a racist, punitive bill. Can you explain why it's not a racist, punitive bill?

MINISTER RUSTON:

The Cashless Debit Card and income management is a programme that is put in place that is defined by people who are on income age payments like the JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance and it's defined by geographical region and in the case of the Cashless Debit Card it is on the request of the community. So it is not in any way designed around a particular race or group of people. It is actually defined geographically and on the basis of need and request to support that need.

DAVID BEVAN:

And yet the areas where this is being conducted are remote areas in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory? The common theme seems to be Aboriginal communities?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well we have four trial sites on the Cashless Debit Card around Australia. One of them is Ceduna and there are two in Western Australia but there's also another one in Queensland which is actually in the Hervey Bay area as well so it is absolutely not directed at Indigenous people. In some of the communities that have sought our assistance as Government to help their people, there is a high percentage of indigenous people on the card, but that is not the reason and this programme is not designed around race, it is designed around need.

DAVID BEVAN:

Are you doing this in any predominantly white communities?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Yes certainly, in the Hervey Bay area and Bundaberg it's a very low percentage of people who are Indigenous are involved in the programme up there but we put the programme into that area at the request of the Hervey Bay and Bundaberg communities.

DAVID BEVAN:

But why isn't this programme being trialled in Plympton, or Parramatta, or Beaumont?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Because those communities have not requested that the programme be trialled there. We've had communities who have asked us to look at it. Like for instance Moree in New South Wales asked us to look at the programme, we went there, we worked with the community and eventually it was decided the community did not want to proceed with the programme so we need to be very clear David that this programme has been put into communities at their request, not at our insistence.

ALI CLARKE:

Is there anything in the legislation that will make that stay the same? So for example, is there any room for this actually to just be handed down to a community, even if they don't want it?

MINISTER RUSTON:

No, no, not at all. To put a new community onto this programme requires primary legislation but first and foremost, before that is even considered, the community needs to come forward. We have a couple of communities that are currently in the process of considering whether they would like to implement the programme but I want to stress that I do not have the power as the Minister responsible for this Act to put any new communities onto the programme without seeking the endorsement of the parliament in primary legislation.

ALI CLARKE:

Are any of those communities that have putting their hand up in South Australia?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Not at this stage although we are in constant conversation with a number of communities and of course I would not be talking about which communities they were with because of course you know in the first instance we have to work through them, but that not at this stage.

DAVID BEVAN:

If this is such a cracker jack programme why is there a disconnect between what the communities are telling you and what the research is saying because the research apparently shows that this stuff doesn't work, but the communities are saying, yes, we want it. So why would there be that disconnect and it's not like you haven't been doing this for several years now?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well David I wouldn't actually agree with what you've just said. The communities where the programmes work – yes they do want it and in fact we got very strong endorsement from these communities and I was only in Ceduna on the weekend where I met with the community leaders and yes you're right the community want it. But I don't think you can say that the research is suggesting that the programmes don't work. What we're saying is the research, and we need more quantitative research, but there are clear findings that have come out of many independent research and evaluation reports that show that respondents are saying that there is a reduced incidence of alcohol consumption, excessive alcohol consumption. Respondents are saying they are reporting they're reducing the amount of gambling that is occurring but we definitely have evidence to support that the programme is having a positive effect in community. I just think that we need to get more data.

ALI CLARKE:

Senator and Ruston, Minister for Family and Social Services, thank you.

MINISTER RUSTON:

Thanks very much.