LEGISLATION PROBLEMS: A loophole in the start date of the cashless debit card (pictured) could lead to people moving out of the region before December 21 to escape its roll-out.
LEGISLATION PROBLEMS: A loophole in the start date of the cashless debit card (pictured) could lead to people moving out of the region before December 21 to escape its roll-out. Amanda Coop

CASHLESS LOOPHOLE: 14 days to escape card rollout

A LAST-MINUTE exodus of welfare families to Maryborough is still possible as the Cashless Card deadline looms.

The Chronicle can reveal the legislation is yet to come into effect.

Amid fears of a potential "welfare migration" from Hervey Bay to Maryborough as families seek to avoid the card's rollout next year, the Department of Social Services has repeatedly reminded residents they will not be exempt from the program should they move away.

But the Chronicle understands eligibility for the program does not apply until three months after the Act receives royal assent.

This means the legislation is due to come into effect on December 21, still leaving a two-week window for people looking to avoid the roll-out.

The legislation to trial the card in Hinkler was passed in the Senate on September 11 following a tight 33-32 vote.

A DSS spokesman confirmed eligible participants included under 35-years-old and receive Newstart, Youth Allowance (Jobseeker) or Single and Partnered Parenting Payments that were "living in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region as at 21 December 2018".

"A person is placed on the cashless debit card so long as they continue to meet the payment and age criteria, even if they move to a non-cashless debit card area," the spokesman said.

"Participant numbers did not dramatically change in the Goldfields, East Kimberley or Ceduna before these trials commenced."

Concerns of a potential exodus to Hinkler's surrounding towns were first raised by Maryborough's Chamber of Commerce president Lance Stone, pictured, in May.

Mr Stone told the Chronicle yesterday his issue with the cashless card was the message it would send for people who used their payments fairly.

"Because we, as a community, are unable to provide meaningful employment to people, they're essentially being told by the government they can't be trusted with their money," he said.

"It's the concern of Big Brother controlling discretionary spending in town.

"To judge and discriminate on the basis of wealth is quite archaic in my view."

The revelation comes days after the Chronicle spoke with families in Hervey Bay who were receiving letters informing them of the card's pending roll-out on January 29, 2019.

People placed on the card will have cash withdrawals limited to 20 per cent of their welfare payment. About 6000 people in the Hinkler region will be placed on the card.