UnitingCare Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) have reiterated their calls for the cashless debit card trial to be scrapped, following the release of the Senate Committee Report on the proposed expansion of the trial.
“The cashless debit card is ineffective, expensive and discriminatory,” said Rev. Garry Dronfield, President of the UAICC.
The proposed expansion will disproportionately affect First Peoples, with around 22,000 people in the Northern Territory and Cape York set to be transitioned onto the cashless debit card. More than 80 per cent of those affected will be Aboriginal people or Torres Strait Islanders.
“First Peoples need to be in the driver’s seat in making decisions that affect their livelihoods,” said Rev. Dronfield. “Despite the recent rhetoric of ‘partnership’ and ‘co-design’, there has been little consultation with communities in the Northern Territory and those most affected have been denied a voice and say into a policy that will fundamentally affect their lives.
“While we support a voluntary opt-in scheme that is co-designed with communities, the mandated and blanket approach that is being adopted will only serve to further entrench the disadvantage and disempowerment of our people,” said Rev. Dronfield.
Claerwen Little, National Director of UnitingCare Australia, said it was deeply concerning the Government was seeking to expand the scheme in the absence of evidence that the cashless debit card and other forms of compulsory income quarantining have had any widespread or sustained benefits.
“There has been no conclusive quantitative data to support the continuation or expansion of the cashless debit card, and there is an overwhelming lack of community support and involvement in its design,” said Ms Little.
“Restricting how and where a person can spend their money does not tackle the underlying causes of poverty, unemployment or drug and alcohol misuse.
“We believe the substantial funds expended on administering the cashless debit card could be better spent on improving the adequacy of income support payments and funding community-led services and supports.
“We urge the Government to invest in local solutions to inherently complex social issues, rather than impose a top-down measure that disempowers people and communities,” said Ms Little.