REVEALED: Decision on making cashless card bill permanent
The Federal Government has failed for now in its bid to make the Cashless Debit Card permanent.
But the program has been extended for two years in the current trial sites.
The Government's original plan was to make the card permanent in Ceduna in South Australia, the East Kimberley and Goldfields regions of Western Australia, and the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region of Queensland.
But independent senator Rex Patrick voiced his opposition to the cashless card on Wednesday, which meant the bill was likely to be voted down in the Senate.
In response social services Minister Anne Ruston introduced last-minute amendments to instead extend the current program, leading to the Centre Alliance senator, Stirling Griff, abstaining from the vote.
The amended bill was passed by one vote.
In Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, the card only applies to people aged 35 years and under who receive jobseeker and parenting payments.
People in the trial sites who have started receiving eligible welfare payments during the COVID-19 crisis will be placed on the card once the government lifts a pause on new entrants.
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said the cashless credit card provided an opportunity to make a change for the community.
"The trial in my view has made a positive difference in the lives of the people in Hinkler. COVID has clearly had a big impact on our community, however, during the pandemic, more welfare has been spent on groceries, homewares, footwear, clothing and furniture," Mr Pitt said.
"In a speech to Parliament in May 2017 which I stand by today, I said: 'Change is difficult. Change will be hard. Change will be controversial. But change is absolutely necessary. It is absolutely worth the attempt.
"I've always said this would be a difficult policy to introduce, but I've never run from something just because it was difficult.
"The feedback that we have had is very clear: it makes a difference, it does work, and we will continue the trial until 2022.
"We will monitor where improvements could be made, but once again, it works.
"The Government remains committed to promoting positive outcomes for communities and the responsible spending of welfare payments."
The Cashless Debit Card quarantines 80 per cent of welfare recipients' payments on to the card so it cannot be spent on alcohol, gambling or withdraw as cash.
The Hinkler trial started in January 2019 and applies to people aged 35 and under who receive JobSeeker, Youth Allowance (JobSeeker), Parenting Payment (Partnered) and Parenting Payment (Single).
Cashless Debit Card recipients with questions about their card can contact the hotline on 1800 252 604, visit the shopfronts in Bundaberg or Hervey Bay to get one-on-one assistance or they visit the Department of Social Services website: www.dss.gov.au/cashless-debit-card.
The Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre and IMPACT Community Services have full-time case managers to assist Cashless Debit Card holders access services including financial counselling, parenting programs, education and training.