The controversial cashless debit scheme which quarantines welfare recipients’ money will not be made permanent yet after the federal government failed to win support in parliament.
Instead, trials which are being undertaken in certain communities – mostly Indigenous – will be extended for another two years.
The Morrison government’s bill to make the scheme permanent was opposed by Labor, the Greens and independent senators Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick.
The Cashless Debit Card (CDC) which quarantine’s 80 per cent of a person’s welfare payment onto a card has been labelled “racist” by some critics for its rollout in predominantly Indigenous communities.
The card cannot be used to buy alcohol or gambling products and can only be used at a list of approved outlets.
The Senate debated the bill late into Wednesday evening.
Senator Patrick criticised the Coalition for claiming the card stopped welfare recipients from drinking, gambling or using drugs.
“We do not have empirical data, any definitive data set, that would guide as to whether or not it actually does achieve those particular objectives,” Senator Patrick said.
— Rex Patrick (@Senator_Patrick) December 9, 2020
The proposed legislation also would also migrate more than 20,000 people in the Northern Territory onto the cards from another income management scheme.
Trials of the cashless debit cards are occurring in Ceduna, the East Kimberley and Goldfields in Western Australia, and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland.
Social Services minister Senator Anne Ruston said the Coalition remained committed to making the program permanent.
“This amendment does not change our commitment; it simply means we have more work to do to in the future to convince the Parliament they should support this program on a permanent basis too.”
Senator Patrick visited Ceduna as he made his deliberations on the card.
“Probably the most important people I spoke to were those that were required to use the card,” he said.
He also revealed people lobbying him to oppose the bill had threatened him and abused staff, forcing the Australian Federal Police to become involved.