Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022

I commend to the House the words and the contributions of the members in the electorates in which this card has been working. I’ve listened to each one of them speak. They have been profound
in their comments on the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022, but none of them has been consulted in this process about what Labor is planning to do here.

The member for Durack spoke very eloquently just now from a point of actual experience, not ideology, in her community, which she knows very, very well. We’ve seen the same thing from the member for O’Connor and his experience in the Goldfields of Western Australia. Both of these are Western Australian electorates and both members have spoken directly of the impacts that this particular measure has had in their communities. Of all people who would know, it’s these members, as well as the member for Grey from South Australia, who has also had a community using the cashless debit card and who has seen profound impacts from that. Also, we heard earlier from the member for Hinkler.

I recommend that everyone who’s watching this now go back and have a look at the Hansard or at the contributions by each one of these members who can speak from experience of what access to the cashless debit card has done in their communities. They actually know because they live it. They’re there with their communities and they care most about their communities. I’d also like to recommend the contribution by the member for Aston, the shadow minister for education. He just made a profound and important contribution on this. Like, I hope, all members in this House—certainly the members that I’ve spoken about—we are profoundly concerned for the most vulnerable, the ones who expect the members who’ve just spoken to speak on their behalf—and they have—those vulnerable children, families and women.

In one of the communities that I visited some time ago in my previous role, I met some Aboriginal elder women. They were doing amazing work in their community, but they were forthright with me about the challenges their community faced, and I can only say to the member for Durack how important this card is as part of that and the response to that. Equally, there was a group—some wonderful Indigenous people—who would drive around at night. They would spend their evenings driving around, collecting young children from wherever they were in their community and taking them home. Also, it was interesting to see how often they would wait so that the young people could look in the windows or doors of those premises and decide whether they would go in or get back on the bus because of what was going on. That’s the real world for these young people and for women in these communities. I would say that this government bill gives an absolute green light to more alcohol, more drug abuse and more violence in at-risk communities, which the members have spoken about so eloquently tonight.

This now sits with Labor. This is a very profound decision that they have made, and I would say to them that they need to be very directly aware of the impact of this decision and what harm this will bring to those communities. We’ve seen the benefits that these have brought, and previous members spoke on this. Forty-one per cent of participants surveyed who drank alcohol reported drinking less frequently. That’s a very good result. Forty-eight per cent of participants surveyed who used drugs reported using drugs less frequently.

There were lots, dozens, of evaluations of the cashless debit card, and they provided consistent evidence about quarantining policies that show a decrease in drug and alcohol issues, decreases in crime violence and antisocial behaviour, and improvements in child health and wellbeing. What a fantastic outcome: an improvement in child health and wellbeing. I’m sure the member for Durack and the members present are part of that, being a reason why this cashless debit card is so important and is making a difference. There has been improvement in financial
management and—here’s a wonderful result—ongoing and even strengthened community support. What a great set of outcomes.

Here we have a Labor government ripping that away, saying: ‘That does not matter. That is not important.’ Yes, to us, it is. The members I have spoken about, who have been so supportive of this and worked so hard to get the card into their communities, understand very well how important this is and what a difference it’s made. It’s made a real difference to real lives, particularly to children and women. They’re the people who are going to suffer most. I am absolutely appalled by that decision—absolutely appalled. We haven’t seen the consultation. There’s been no consultation, to my knowledge, in the Goldfields—no consultation at all. We’re going to see what happens from here. I don’t know what the government are going to do in relation to alcohol, gambling and illegal drugs—it sits with them now—and how they’re actually going to manage from here.

I know the member for Grey has spoken out very strongly on this issue and the difference it’s made to his community in Ceduna. He has spoken very strongly about this. He is very, very concerned about the impact, and rightly so. He did say that his community, as we’ve heard repeatedly in this place, were consulted and were
very much part of it. I think the member for Aston spoke very strongly about this and the difference that had made in the design and delivery.

The member for O’Connor also said that the mayors in the Goldfields are bracing themselves for an increase in antisocial behaviour. I quote the member for O’Connor in a previous speech. He represents the constituents of the Goldfields, and he said that it’s accepted by far more retailers and that nothing could be further from the truth in saying that it was stigmatising, because it was able to be used and used very effectively. I understand that not one Labor MP or senator has engaged with the Goldfields. The member for O’Connor said that neither he nor the member for Durack nor the member for Grey nor the member for Hinkler were asked about the actual impacts of this card that operates in their particular electorates. I find that astounding when they are making such a profound decision that affects the lives of our most vulnerable, women and children. This is something this parliament should never forget: the most vulnerable are at greater risk now because of the removal of this cashless debit card.

I think all of us would agree that reducing alcohol, reducing drugs, increased school attendance and more food for children are great ideas. I know the member for Durack thinks that is a great idea for the young people in her electorate. A reduction in domestic and sexual violence—what a fantastic outcome. That’s why we’re here in this place. They are exactly the issues that we are here to deal with on behalf of our communities. The government is now responsible for any increase in harm to children and families in the communities that currently have access to the cashless debit card. This now sits with the government.

I speak in this House to represent those who aren’t being heard, those who will be most impacted by any change to the CDC in the electorates we have spoken about tonight. To those of you who have not read or listened to the contributions by the members here who have the CDC in their electorates, can I encourage you to do so. The member for Durack, the member for O’Connor, the member for Grey, the member for Hinkler and of course the shadow minister for education—I commend their contributions to you all and encourage you to read and listen to those.