Interview with Narelda Jacobs and John Paul Janke on The Point, NITV


JOHN PAUL JANKE: Well, it's been in place for six years, but the controversial cashless debit card trial may soon be over. The new Federal Government is moving ahead to scrap the card after a recent report by the National Audit Office found no evidence that the program was making any positive impact. 

NARELDA JACOBS: There are currently around 16,000 people on the card, many of those First Nations people. The new Federal Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth, has been consulting with community members in Ceduna, and joins us now. Minister, welcome to The Point. How were the meetings, those face-to-face meetings in Ceduna?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, we had really, really productive discussions about as we transition from the cashless debit card, how we do that in a way that supports people, but also in a way that ensures that services still are maintained. So there was a really, good discussion, really pleased to have gone up there. And I'll be getting to the Kimberley later this week. But really, really good discussions about the pathway forward, and that's what I see as critically important. 

JOHN PAUL JANKE: Minister, you've had people come forward and tell of their experiences with the card. What are some of the experiences that you've been told about and have you been shocked by these? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, I've heard a range of experiences. There are some people that have liked having income management, but there's others that have found it very frustrating, particularly around, for example, not being offered to buy second hand goods that easily. So having to buy new expensive things because they haven't had the cash available. I've also heard from a lot of people about the embarrassment that comes along with it if a card is not accepted at a retail place, and the shame that actually comes with it as well. There's been other people that have liked to know that their finances have been taken care of. So certainly, there has been mixed views of what's happened. But as we've said, as we want to transition people from compulsory nature of it to a voluntary nature. For those that like it, they will be able to have a sort of a type of income management that they can use. But for those that have not- it has not worked for them, we don't want to make them feel like they are compelled and forced to be on this type of income management. 

NARELDA JACOBS: Yeah, Minister, it's an interesting point that some legitimate retailers or places that you can buy things that will impact your cost of living in a positive way. People haven't been able to use the card, at farmers markets, for example. What is the timeline for the termination of the card? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, at the moment I'm consulting with communities about an orderly transition. What we don't want to do is just rip this card away overnight. As you've indicated, some people have been using this card for some time. So we want to make sure that we're properly working with communities around what that transition looks like. I am open to a conversation about how we do that. And that's the tenor of what we discussed in Ceduna, and what I'll be discussing with other communities. How do we make this work for communities? How do we make this work for people? So we'll be discussing this, but there is a process to go through. But we will be introducing legislation in the Parliament to end it, and outline that transition process. So this is a really important piece of work, but I don't want to just lump this on communities. I want to work with communities about what that transition looks like away from the cashless debit card and onto other forms of support, or indeed get off it right altogether so that people have the freedom to spend the money on what they want. 

JOHN PAUL JANKE: Minister, you mentioned there a transition period. Will there be a need to increase other sort of services around that transition period to help people migrate from using the card for many years to actually now getting off the card? Will there be a need to increase other services?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, that's absolutely what we're discussing at the moment. We do think that there is a need to work with individuals about their options, about whether they would like to explore Centrepay, for example as an option, to have their rent deducted. So we want to work with individuals that are on the card to make sure that they are getting the support they need. But I've also been talking with communities about the more general community support that's needed. Some of the really good programs working in Ceduna, we need to make sure that they are there to provide the support for community. So that's the other conversation that I'm having as well, is what are the things that are working well, and how can we ensure that that support is there during the transition period and beyond. 

NARELDA JACOBS: Well, Amanda Rishworth, Minister, you're off to- for Kimberley next. We wish you all the best, travel well, and thank you for joining us on The Point.