Australia’s controversial cashless debit card is doomed to the scrapyard, paving the way for thousands of people in remote communities to get off the card next week.
The repeal bill passed the final congressional hurdle on Wednesday after the Senate sat late into the night to pass the amendment bill.
Green Party and independent senators David Pocock and Jackie Lambie, along with the government, voted to abolish the card.
Social Services Minister Amanda Richworth said the crossbench amendments helped strengthen the law.
“These amendments are the result of extensive consultation,” she told Congress when the bill was returned to the House.
“These are sensible amendments that improve the bill. They are the result of listening to the community.”
Fixes included ensuring voluntary access to cards.
Passage of the bill paves the way for card welfare beneficiaries to exit the card by October 4th.
A cashless debit card sequesters up to 80% of a welfare recipient’s income and cannot be withdrawn for cash or spent on gambling or alcohol.
Rishworth has previously said that the card was not working and that “it’s time to give people back their autonomy”.
“So many people’s lives were adversely affected because they didn’t have access to enough cash… they couldn’t live their own lives,” she told ABC.
Senator Pocock said all mandatory income controls need to be abolished, but the bill is an important first step.
Opposition parties voted against scrapping the cards, arguing it would lead to increased drug use and violence in vulnerable communities.
Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds said that reducing access to drugs, alcohol and gambling “has significantly reduced alcohol and substance abuse, assault, rape and murder.”
Senator Reynolds said the Labor Party’s opt-in approach doesn’t work for women who are being coerced into providing money to an abusive partner.
Senator Lambie said the government failed to provide enough support services to help people transition off the card.
“All I get from Labor is a mountain of silence and a ridiculous ‘I don’t know’ look on their faces,” she said.