31 July 2023

I rise to talk about the abhorrent cashless debit card that those opposite keep on pushing onto the most vulnerable Australians. This was not a policy supported by evidence, nor was it in the best interest of the communities that were affected by it. The cashless debit card significantly limits the freedom of individuals without sufficient or reliable evidence to show that it works or is justified. Despite all of this, the Liberals continue to push for an extension of the CDC trials. This leads me to question the values of those in opposition. They focus on the idea of empowering people to take agency and make the best decision for themselves, and yet they restrict freedom via the CDC. Which side of the fence are they sitting on?

Additionally, they came up with this policy in an attempt to change behaviours associated with addiction, but what is abundantly clear is that that has been unsuccessful and, even worse, dehumanising. Issues such as alcohol abuse in remote and rural Australian are complex. Using a blanket approach towards such issues will only stigmatise and institutionalise those affected. According to an ACOSS report, 75 per cent of people who were forced onto the card did not change their behaviour in relation to alcohol, drugs or gambling, and 49 per cent of those affected by the CDC said their lives have become worse since the introduction of the program. The results and feedback of the CDC illustrate that social and health issues need to be addressed with a broader approach. Furthermore, more than three-quarters of people that were subjected to the CDC identified as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. However, the CDC fails to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people control over the policies that affect them.

What we are seeing here is a shameless, selfish obsession that the Liberals have with their idea of the privatised, punitive cashless debit card—so much so that, instead of addressing the real issues Australians care about, like the cost of living, which the Albanese government is focusing on, the Liberals recommitted to reinstating the cashless debit card in Mr Dutton's budget reply speech earlier this year. This tells you everything you need to know about what those opposite think of the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our community. I tell you what: if the member for Deakin is so bent on the reintroduction of the cashless debit card, perhaps he might trial it first in his own electorate and see how that goes.

This is why our government has abolished the cashless debit card. Our approach has always been to fund things that make a difference, and abolishing the cashless debit card has made a positive difference for many people's lives. If a person decides for themselves that some form of income management works for them then that should be an option available to them, and that is where the smart card is made available for them. But that is an option, not something enforced upon them, and that is the difference.

The October 2022 budget allocated $217 million to abolish the CDC program and fund support services, and over 70 per cent of this funding will be used to provide support services in CDC communities—services those opposite failed to provide. To quote Rebecca, a former CDC participant who was forced on the card, the abolition was time to rebuild what people like her lost from being put on this card. Another former CDC participant, Shelley, can finally shop at markets again and take the kids to the show, and people like Lisa can look forward to being able to take their family out to restaurants again for a family meal. Let's take this opportunity to actually listen to what vulnerable communities are saying and deliver justice and support for those affected by the CDC.


Hansard - Federation Chamber 31/07/2023 Parliament of Australia (