Card lim­its buy­ing to es­sen­tials

Sunday Herald Sun - - Front Page - SA­MAN­THA MAIDEN NA­TIONAL PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR sa­man­

TEENAGE wel­fare re­cip­i­ents will have their in­come quar­an­tined for es­sen­tials un­der a plan to is­sue a new debit card that bans spend­ing on il­licit drugs, booze, pornog­ra­phy and cig­a­rettes to un­der-18s.

The Turn­bull Govern­ment is ex­am­in­ing op­tions to ex­tend in­come man­age­ment to teenagers on the dole af­ter years of test­ing the pol­icy in in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

The Healthy Wel­fare Card can re­strict up to 80 per cent of un­der-18s’ Youth Al­lowance for life’s es­sen­tials — hous­ing costs, food and bills.

The cash­less wel­fare card op­er­ates sim­i­lar to any other credit card but can­not be used to buy cig­a­rettes, pornog­ra­phy, al­co­hol or get cash for il­licit drugs.

Ap­prox­i­mately 140,000 Aus­tralian teenagers re­ceive some form of wel­fare.

The largest group is around 76,000 un­em­ployed peo­ple aged 16-20, re­ceiv­ing Youth Al­lowance.

There are also an es­ti­mated 21,000 un­der-20s on the Dis­abil­ity Sup­port Pen­sion and 10,000 sin­gle par­ents who rely on par­ent­ing pay­ments.

Hu­man Ser­vices Min­is­ter Alan Tudge has long cham­pi­oned in­come man­age­ment to stop wel­fare cash be­ing used to buy booze and drugs, fu­elling fam­ily vi­o­lence — the cost of which is a huge drain on the econ­omy.

Mr Tudge re­fused to be drawn on the govern­ment’s plans to roll out the cash­less wel­fare card to un­der-18s, con­firm­ing only the cur­rent ar­range­ments.

“We have made no de­ci­sions about any pos­si­ble ex­ten­sion of the cash­less wel­fare card be­yond the trial sites in Ce­duna and East Kim-

berly,’’ Mr Tudge told the Sun­day Her­ald Sun.

But Coali­tion MPs are un­der­stood to be en­thu­si­as­tic about the idea, and Mr Tudge re­mains a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for the ex­ten­sion of the scheme.

In Au­gust 2015, he wrote: “The logic is in­escapable. We have places where wel­fare is a ma­jor part of the lo­cal econ­omy and the wel­fare dol­lar is fu­elling gam­bling, al­co­hol and drug abuse.”

Mr Tudge has pushed for an ex­pan­sion of the scheme de­scrib­ing it in speeches as al­low­ing re­cip­i­ents to “get their lives back on track”.

“It’s not just that in­di­vid­u­als are wast­ing wel­fare pay­ments, but wel­fare abuse is de­stroy­ing the lives of women and chil­dren.”

Un­til now the re­forms have proven ex­pen­sive and com­pli­cated to man­age, with the govern­ment spend­ing more than $1 bil­lion on the in­come man­age­ment tri­als.

The fed­eral Bud­get al­ready in­cludes fund­ing for an ex­ten­sion of in­come man­age­ment un­til 2017, in­clud­ing a new debit card that pro­vides a cheaper method of ringfenc­ing ben­e­fits cash.

In­tro­duced a decade ago un­der the Howard govern­ment’s “emer­gency re­sponse” in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, the tech­nique was at first used only in in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties there.

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