CASHLESS CARD: Mayor tells Senate Pitt's plan is flawed
MAYOR George Seymour has warned senators in Canberra the proposed cashless card could stigmatise welfare recipients, cause community segregation, degrade Hervey Bay's reputation and create mental health issues if introduced to the Hinkler region.
The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee yesterday heard submissions from individuals on the controversial card and what the potential rollout could mean for the electorate.
The public hearing gave senators the opportunity to ask questions of people who made submissions in support or opposition of the card, which will ultimately help shape the committee's recommendation next Tuesday.
Appearing by phone during the hearing, Cr Seymour told senators the Fraser Coast Regional Council did not have a formal stance on the card.
However, the mayor made a written submission on a council letterhead which listed his fears that the welfare card could "create a black market in my community, impact business that are cash-based and may lead to an increase in crime".
"This (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill seeks to unilaterally apply controls over the lives of thousands of members of my community without looking into their personal circumstances," Cr Seymour's submission read.
"Causal evidence linking people under the age of 36 receiving income support with alcohol, drug and gambling problems has not been presented."
The updated bill expands the original Cashless Debit Card welfare arrangements to a fourth trial site in Australia - Hinkler - to run until June 30, 2020.
If passed, the bill will deliver the card to 6700 welfare recipients across the electorate - making up more than 54 per cent of the country's total participants.
The Cashless Debit Card cannot be used to buy alcohol or gambling products and limits cash withdrawals to 20 per cent of a welfare payment.
The biggest advocate for the cashless card has been Hinkler MP Keith Pitt, who believes the card would minimise intergenerational welfare dependence, drug and alcohol addiction and child neglect.
An independent ReachTel poll of 637 Hinkler residents in May revealed 53.5 per cent of the electorate supports the Cashless Debit Card compared to 27.8 per cent in opposition, with 18.7 per cent sitting on the fence.
However in his submission to the senate Cr Seymour wrote, "I do not believe this proposal has the support of the community".
"It's a fundamentally flawed policy," he told the Chronicle.
"It doesn't make any sense to me, why this cohort in our community has been chosen to be treated differently from everyone across the country."
Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce vice president Tim Sayre, on the other hand told the senate the cashless would be beneficial for local businesses and would result in an "upswing in trade".
The cashless card is already being trialled by 5700 people across Australia. At least 800 people in South Australia are using the card after the trial was rolled out in the Ceduna region in 2016.