Federal govt moves on welfare card trials

About 10,000 welfare recipients at risk of drug and alcohol abuse will act as guinea pigs to test the success of a controversial cashless welfare card.


Legislation to start trials of the card in select communities was introduced to parliament on Wednesday.

The card would make 80 per cent of a person’s welfare payments cashless if they live in areas where gambling, alcohol and drug abuse are rife.

The South Australian community of Ceduna will be the first to trial the card from 2016, and the east Kimberley region in Western Australia could be next.

The third site is yet to be chosen.

Those on unemployment benefits will have about $200 quarantined on the card each week which they cannot use at gambling or liquor outlets.

They will get only $50 in cash a week for things such as children’s lunch money or bus fares.

Community groups will also have the power to vary the quarantined amount.

The federal government says the communities will test whether the card can reduce the harm caused by welfare-fuelled alcohol, gambling and drug abuse, especially against women and children.

Parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge believes it has the potential to transform communities.

“For this reason, this is an opportunity worth trialling,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

The Australian Greens have vowed to fight the legislation in the Senate, urging Labor to do the same.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert says the trials won’t work and will hurt the ability of vulnerable people to budget and make decisions.

“It is incomprehensible that a paternalistic thought bubble by a billionaire could materialise with the support of the Labor party,” she said in a statement.

The card was first proposed by mining magnate Andrew Forrest.

Opposition families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said Labor was open to considering trials.

“It understands that communities need support to tackle the scourge of alcohol and violence where it exists in some places,” she told AAP in a statement.