Crossbenchers about to remove cashless benefits card


A key senator has sounded that death knell by backing the government’s move to ditch cashless debit cards.

A cashless debit card sequesters up to 80% of a welfare recipient’s income, which cannot be withdrawn for cash or spent on gambling or alcohol.

Independent Senator David Pocock says he has listened to stories and evidence from communities affected by the cards.

He then came to the conclusion that any form of compulsory income control must be abolished.

But voluntary income management needs to be made available to those who want it, he said.

Senator Pocock called the bill a “first step” and acknowledged that it did not eliminate all enforcement measures.

“We need to lobby governments to end all forms of coercive income control,” he said.

“This bill is far from perfect, but it is clearly … necessary, and a long delay in passing the bill will make people suffer even more.”

The labor bill can pass the Senate with the support of the Greens and Senator Pocock.

The Labor Party claims the card is punitive and has frustrated those who have been forced into it.

Senator Mariel Smith said she traveled to Ceduna, South Australia, to hear stories about how cashless debit cards are blaming individuals and leaving the most vulnerable worse off.

“It’s made things worse for too many Australians,” the Labor Senator told the Senate.

She acknowledged that the card had a positive impact on some people, but the compulsory use of the card had a “punitive effect.”

Senator Smith also said some of the positive impact was “the wraparound support service, not the card itself.”

The coalition claims drug use, violence, and anti-social behavior will spike if the cards are discarded.

Indigenous Coalition Senator Jacinta Price said the government “ignored the suffering of vulnerable children.”

“Instead, we stand for the rights of abusers, perpetrators and adults ruled by addictions,” she told the Senate.

A Northern Territory senator said people who want to do away with the card don’t understand what it’s like to be “constantly demanding income from addicted relatives”.

Senator Price said denying these demands violates cultural protocol and can lead to violence.

“This is a fact. I live in this culture,” she said.

Senator Price also questioned why the government would voluntarily keep cashless debit cards if the cards aren’t working.

Nationals Senator Perrin Davey said the government is “pandering to urban progressives… thinking it’s doing the right thing for vulnerable communities, but it really isn’t.” criticized the government.

Labor has flagged various amendments, including providing access to more businesses and allowing online shopping.

In addition, approximately $50 million (US$32 million) has been set aside for funding additional alcohol and drug services and employment programs.

If the law is passed this week, welfare recipients will be able to move out of their cards by October 4th.



Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.