The Cashless Debit Card is scheduled to be rolled-out in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area next week, as of Tuesday 29 January. On Tuesday 22 January, during his visit to Queensland, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced that consultation with experts has led him to the conclusion that ‘there are much better ways to use taxpayer money to help people engage and get back to work and deal with challenges of addiction’ than the Cashless Debit Card.

The AIMN commends Mr Shorten’s statement to ‘work with the community to roll it back and come up with better solutions which actually help people’.

Shadow Minister for Social Services Linda Burney also reiterated Labor’s opposition to the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card Trial (CDCT) to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and Goldfields regions and has previously stated that ‘Labor does not support the CDC unless a community wants it and there is proper consultation and informed community consent’.

The meeting in Bundaberg attended by the Leader of the Opposition clearly reflects community aversion to the Card. Such opposition is echoed across the sites where the CDC has already been introduced. The AIMN therefore calls on Labor to commit to getting rid of the Card not only in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay but also in all the existing sites, including Ceduna and surrounding areas, the Goldfields region, and Kununurra and Wyndham in the East Kimberley.

The ongoing challenges that exist for Cardholders have recently been compounded by recurrent outages of the Indue banking system and people have been unable to make transactions. This has left many people stranded without access to cash[1]. The unreliability of this system does not bode well for the further expansion of the Card in Queensland, where more people will be subjected to increased hardship under a program that does not work.

Examples such as this confirm a key finding of the government-commissioned ORIMA Research evaluation of the CDCT in Ceduna and the East Kimberley – that ‘more participants said the CDCT had made their lives worse than made it better – 49% compared to 22%’[2]. The people of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay should not have to suffer a similar blow to their quality of life.

The AIMN continues to call not only for the ‘roll-back’ of the Card in Queensland but for an end to the Cashless Debit Card in all ‘trial’ locations, as well as to all other forms of compulsory Income Management programs in Australia. We advocate for both the Coalition Government and the Opposition to engage with the ample evidence available on the detrimental effects of compulsory income management on the agency and wellbeing of participants. Forcing people onto a punitive program of income management has not resulted in the Government’s desired reduction in alcohol and other drug use, gambling or crime. As Mr Shorten has aptly recognised, there are ‘much better ways’ to provide appropriate and comprehensive support to marginalised Australians.

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[2] ORIMA Research, Cashless Debit Card Trial Evaluation: Wave 1 Interim Evaluation Report February 2017, evaluation report prepared for the Department of Social Services, (Canberra, 2017), 5.