Labor will introduce a bill to scrap the controversial cashless debit card program on Monday, almost a year after the government failed to win support to make the scheme permanent in some communities.

Key points:

  • Labor will introduce a bill to scrap the Cashless Debit Card program
  • The scheme has been trialled for over five years in several communities around Australia
  • Liberals warn the bill is reckless and will destabilise communities

The private members’ bill will be moved by Victorian MP Julian Hill and seconded by Tweed Heads MP Justine Elliot.

Under the cashless debit card (CDC) program, 80 per cent of an individual’s welfare payments are quarantined on an Indue card that cannot be used to purchase alcohol or gambling products.

The program is in operation in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Kalgoorlie, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and has been trialled for more than five years. 

Access issues

“We have been inundated with people across the country whose lives have been impacted by being on the CDC,” Ms Elliot said. 

Justine Elliot says Labor is worried the government plans to roll out the card for pensioners.(Supplied: Justine Elliot)

“They can’t access basic goods and services. Often the card doesn’t work in many premises; it means they can’t access second-hand goods.

Ms Elliot said Labor was opposed to the fact the government was “essentially privatising welfare.”

“There’s no accountability for Indue — if people have any concerns they have to deal with the company.”

Worry for card’s expansion

Ms Elliot said Labor has concerns the government plans to roll out the card for age pensioners around the country. 

The bill being introduced is titled ‘Protecting Pensions from the Cashless Debit Card.’

“These are people that have worked their whole life, paid their taxes, raised their families and now here’s the government saying, ‘well we’re going to control where you spend 80 per cent of your pension’,” Ms Elliot said.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston vehemently denied the card will be expanded to age pensioners.

“The Morrison government has made it clear we have no plan and will never have a plan to force age pensioners onto the cashless debit card,” Ms Ruston said.

Anne Ruston has denied the card will be expanded to pensioners.(ABC News: David Sciasci)

‘Reckless and irresponsible bill’

Ms Ruston said the bill being introduced would cause instability to trial areas.

“This is a completely reckless and irresponsible piece of legislation put forward by people living in Melbourne and Byron Bay. They would do well to speak to people on the ground in these communities,” Ms Ruston said.

“The cashless debit card helps unemployed Australians who are on welfare stabilise their lives and their communities.

“Justine Elliot and the ALP spin machine should be ashamed of running a scare campaign based solely on lies that is aimed at age pensioners.”

Ms Elliot said Labor will go the next federal election promising to scrap the CDC.

The trial period is expected to run until late 2023.

Posted , updated