Wide Bay MP 'watching cashless card trial closely'
LLEW O'Brien is watching carefully as the results of the welfare cashless card trial are revealed.
The MP was opposed to the cashless card being trialled in his Wide Bay electorate but was keeping an open mind as it was monitored in a trial in neighbouring Hinkler, held by his colleague Keith Pitt.
The Hinkler trial in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay began in January.
Eighty per cent of welfare payments to unemployed people under 35 or those on single parent benefits are made to a cashless card, which cannot be used for gambling, alcohol or drugs, leaving 20 per cent in cash.
Figures released this week show that the number of people on welfare in Hinkler has fallen at double the national rate.
Mr Pitt said the cashless card should be rolled out nationally for unemployed people under 35 and single parents should the Hinkler trial prove as successful as early figures indicated.
Mr O'Brien said he would be happy to support anything that helped at-risk people, who needed income management and other support services, get their lives back on track.
However, he said similar reductions in welfare dependency had been recorded in the Wide Bay electorate during the same period.
"It could be a result of better economic circumstances but I'm still watching the trial - I'd be silly if I wasn't - and if it is a success we are bound to look at the good parts," Mr O'Brien said.
"I'm happy to look at anything that sees less dependency on welfare."
Part of the thrust of the cashless card has been to teach income management to parents to ensure children were properly fed and clothed.
Mr O'Brien's reservations about the card stemmed from his experience with drug addicts.
He believes drug testing needs to be included in future welfare management to identify addicts who needed support in another arena.
As a former policeman, he said he was aware addicts could spend all their welfare funding on drugs in a few days and habitually turned to criminal behaviour to find the extra money they needed until the next welfare payment.
The cashless card alone would not solve that level of dependency, Mr O'Brien said.