Cash­less debit card ‘above pol­i­tics’

Kalgoorlie Miner - - NEWS - Neil Watkin­son

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter in charge of the Gold­fields cash­less debit card trial be­lieves ev­i­dence of its suc­cess should make its fu­ture above po­lit­i­cal points scor­ing.

Fam­i­lies and So­cial Ser­vices Min­is­ter Paul Fletcher vis­ited Laver­ton, Leonora and Kal­go­or­lieBoul­der yes­ter­day to get feed­back on the trial.

Next year’s Fed­eral Elec­tion could have a de­ci­sive in­flu­ence on the card’s fu­ture, with Mr Fletcher con­firm­ing to the Kal­go­or­lie Miner the trial would end on June 30 next year.

But the elec­tion must take place by May 18, and with Fed­eral La­bor con­sis­tently op­pos­ing the Gold­fields trial, a vic­tory for it would raise doubts about the card be­com­ing a fea­ture of the na­tion’s wel­fare sys­tem.

Mr Fletcher said the card was ex­tremely im­por­tant to af­fected com­mu­ni­ties, and he hoped it would be above pol­i­tics.

Mr Fletcher said his visit to the Gold­fields had given him plenty of ev­i­dence about the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits, and the Gov­ern­ment had an “ap­petite to con­tinue it”.

He said the peo­ple who used the card told him their views yes­ter­day, as did other lo­cal agen­cies such as the po­lice, and the ev­i­dence sug­gested it was achiev­ing its ob­jec­tives, such as en­sur­ing wel­fare money was spent on es­sen­tials such as food.

Mr Fletcher said other ben­e­fits he heard in­cluded help­ing to re­duce crime, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dents and pre­sen­ta­tions at hos­pi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments.

He said he was told an in­crease in petty crime had not taken place, in­di­cat­ing the card was not driv­ing users to steal be­cause they did not have cash, as their wel­fare pay­ment was on the card.

Mr Fletcher said he was told about prac­ti­cal prob­lems with us­ing the card, such as need­ing some flex­i­bil­ity for one-time pur­chases, and re­funds be­ing is­sued in cash rather than be­ing put back on the card.

He said the feed­back would en­able the De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices to re­solve these prob­lems.

Mr Fletcher said the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide’s for­mal study of the Gold­fields trial would en­sure the ro­bust­ness of the data col­lected by the trial. He said the Gold­fields trial was also much big­ger than the first tri­als in Ce­duna, South Aus­tralia and WA’s East Kim­ber­ley, and the fourth trial in Queens­land’s Bund­aberg-Her­vey Bay re­gion was big­ger still.

Mr Fletcher said the Gold­fields feed­back sug­gested the card could be ef­fec­tive in a “de­cent-sized city”, con­trary to what op­po­nents had been say­ing.

Fed­eral Mem­ber for O’Con­nor Rick Wil­son, who ac­com­pa­nied Mr Fletcher on yes­ter­day’s tour, said while the card was not a “sil­ver bul­let”, it had sparked a range of as­so­ci­ated mea­sures, such as po­lice step­ping up their pres­ence, and the City of Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der im­ple­ment­ing its Safer Streets Pa­trol tar­get­ing an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour.

Mr Wil­son said if other par­ties gained power and de­cided to close the trial, he would vig­or­ously voice his op­po­si­tion to such a move.

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