Will sanity prevail?

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The Auditor General’s report on the cashless debit card trial released this week supports QCOSS’ (Queensland Council of Social Service) findings that ‘evidence is lacking’ to support any expansion of the card to the Hinkler electorate of Hervey Bay and Bundaberg in Queensland.

QCOSS has held this position since the suggestions were made to extend the trial to Queensland, strongly advising against the expansion of the trial not only because of the lack of evidence, but also because addressing complex health and social issues, like substance use problems, through the welfare system is fundamentally flawed.

“We are very pleased to see the Auditor General’s report supports what we have been saying for some months,” QCOSS CEO Mark Henley says.

“The test will now be to see if sanity prevails and the Turnbull Government steps away from this legislation.”

“We urge the current Senate inquiry into the legislation to go to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay to talk to people who will be impacted by the card. This is the only way the inquiry can genuinely assess local community sentiment.”

In February, the Senate failed to pass legislation that would have included Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in the trial. It seems that, just as they did with the Drug-testing Trials, the government is intent on moving forward with these trials despite the lack of evidence of their success, and the fact that the new legislation contains no substantial changes to the trial.

The Auditor General’s damning report agrees, finding major flaws in the monitoring and evaluation of the cashless debit card trials. The wider roll-out of the card has been informed by these trials.

Specifically, the report supports conclusions QCOSS made in our analysis of the Cashless Debit Card Trial Evaluation last year. This includes the lack of evidence of success, the evaluation methodology being questionable and the two new sites representing a markedly different environment. The report also recommended a clear articulation of costs and benefits of the trials before any further expansion.

QCOSS will be making a submission to the inquiry opposing the expansion of the cashless debit card trial and calling for a public hearing to be held in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.

More than 80 per cent of the 170 submissions made by individuals and organisations to the previous inquiry opposed the cashless debit card trial.  QCOSS strongly encourages submissions to this new Senate inquiry, which closes this Friday, 20 July 2018.

To lodge a submission, the committee website is here:  https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/CDCTrialExpansion People can email a submission to the committee at [email protected] or lodge online, (note that you will need a ‘My Parliament’ login if lodging online). We have also developed some templates you may wish to customise and use: https://www.qcoss.org.au/cashless-debit-card

The cashless debit card further stigmatises welfare recipients in areas where there are limited economic options.

The government needs to explore alternative options to identify the most effective response to these social issues, including talking with the people it will impact the most.  This would help communities, rather than further stigmatising those accessing income support with these paternalistic trials that reduce people’s agency and independence.

For nearly 60 years QCOSS has been a leading force for social change to eliminate poverty and disadvantage.

18 July 2018 |Focus area: