Cashless debit card ‘above politics’
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.