December 05, 2017

Federal Labor will support the continuation of the existing cashless debit card trial sites in Ceduna and the East Kimberley. 

However Labor will not support the rollout of the cashless debit card to the two new proposed sites of Bundaberg and the Goldfields due to insufficient consultation with these communities, and the widespread criticism of the evaluation and the effectiveness of the card.

After conducting our own consultations with people in Bundaberg and the Goldfields and hearing evidence from the Senate Inquiry, it has become clear that Labor cannot support Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 in its current form. 

Labor believes that there is insufficient credible evidence at this point to support the establishment of further trials of the cashless debit card. 

The flawed Orima Evaluation of the existing trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley was inconclusive.

The Orima evaluation was subject to detailed criticism from leading academics, including Dr Janet Hunt from ANU, who said the evaluation does: “not present adequate evidence of the trial leading to successful outcomes for participants…. it is impossible to have confidence that the trial actually succeeded.”

Given the significant cost of the trials, an accrued cost of around $25.5 million or about $12,000 per participant, we must be sure that the cashless card can deliver its stated objectives.  

We have consistently said that we will take a community-by-community approach to the further rollout of the cashless debit card. 

Labor also has concerns that two years is not long enough for communities to determine whether there has been any real benefit from the introduction of the cashless debit card.

We are hearing that the communities in the existing trial sites want to continue using the card, and see the trial through.  

We will continue to support the continuation of the trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley for these reasons. 

Labor will move amendments to the Bill to extend the end date for the trials in Ceduna and the East Kimberley to 30 June 2019 so that a proper evaluation can take place over a longer trial period. 

We have always said that we are supportive of community driven initiatives designed to tackle chronic alcohol abuse. But they must be genuinely community driven and not be part of a top-down approach. 

Labor understands that entrenched disadvantage cannot, and will not, be solved by income management alone. That’s why we have always advocated for the Government to provide additional wraparound supports to participating communities. 

We are calling on the Senate to support our amendment that funding for these vital wraparound service be guaranteed in the legislation. 

In future, Labor will only consider the introduction of any new trial sites if the Government can show that the community have agreed through a formal consultation process with the community, as well as an agreed definition of consent, and have established an evidence base through a robust and credible evaluation.


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