The decision to extend cashless debit card trials is a terrible one. Remember this card has been trialled since 2014 at a cost of tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars. Moreover, reports from the Australian National Audit Office and the University of Adelaide remain inconclusive as to whether the card has successfully reduced social harm, and yet the Government continues to pour money into a program that, after seven years of trials, cannot be deemed a success.
A majority of cardholders have reported feelings of discrimination, embarrassment, shame and unfairness as a result of being on the card. Other recipients of Government pensions and payments are terrified of becoming part of the trial, and I’ve had hundreds of people contact my office fearful that despite not drinking, gambling, smoking or taking drugs they will lose their financial independence and be forced to carry a card. Indeed a petition seeking to immediately end the cashless debit card trials, signed by 17,613 people, is to be tabled in the Parliament next Monday.
There is perhaps a place for these cards to assist with addiction or other social harms, but they should be court ordered and not indiscriminately applied to all Centrelink recipients. Frankly this is a Band-aid solution to complex social problems and the money would be better spend on more targeted programs.