Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has hailed results from the first six months of a trial of the cashless welfare card in both Ceduna and the Kimberley region.
The Federal Government said arrests for public drunkenness, revenue from poker machines and admissions to sobering-up centres had all dropped since the trial began.
Mr Turnbull will release a report into the trial today.
The report will show a 15 per cent reduction in poker machine revenue in the Ceduna pub, with a similar reduction experienced in the other trial site in Wyndham in Western Australia’s East Kimberly region.
The number of people apprehended for public intoxication in Ceduna between March, when the trial started, and August was half that of the corresponding period last year.
However, most of the reduction came at the start of the trial, with most recent monthly numbers back to where they were late last year before the trial came in.
Hospital admissions for alcohol-related injuries have remained steady during the trial period except for a one-off drop in May.
The number of people being admitted to the local hospital’s sobering-up unit has increased during the trial period.
The cards have continued to attract criticism in the Ceduna region, where Mr Turnbull is on a two-day visit.
“Less violence, less arrests, a big reduction in social problems in the community,” Mr Turnbull said, after meeting Mayor Allan Suter.
“Communities around the country will be looking at the … experience of this trial and they will be making judgments about whether it suits their circumstances.”
But he said it would be a “stretch” to imagine the cashless welfare card being rolled out to all Australians.
“This is a trial and it’s very important to evaluate it,” Mr Turnbull said.
‘People don’t like it’: Card met with backlash from users
The cards quarantine 80 per cent of payments for essentials such as bills and groceries, and welfare funds cannot be spent on alcohol or gambling.
Ceduna resident David Pav, who was initially given a card but later had it removed, said he had experienced several teething problems.
“You go to the shop, you put your card in and it doesn’t work, it’s soul destroying.”
“People don’t like it and it can’t be used in all the spaces it’s supposed to be used.
“You can’t go onto eBay and all that, and it’s heavily reliant on mobile technology when a lot of people don’t have mobile phones or use phone banking.”
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge rejected local criticisms.
“It seems that most of the objections are ideological rather than practical,” he said.
“If you’re a responsible individual, and if you’re not a big gambler, drinker or drug taker, the only impact on you is that instead of reaching into your pocket for cash, you’ll reach into your pocket, grab your card, swipe it and off you go.”
The trials conclude in 2017 when there will be an independent evaluation.