33 Senators reduce transparency and accountability

Social Services Legislation Amendment
Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion – Bill 2018

How on earth did 33 members of the Senate that are entrusted to ensure good governance; remove and reduce transparency and accountability of this government on this highly contentious social policy?

How on earth did 33 members of the Senate vote ‘AYE’ when there are way too many questions unanswered?

For example:

  • Who was/is on the Reference Panel?
  • The Department signed off on Indue terms and conditions which are implemented to each card holder.
  • Not the same as a normal debit card. Merchants are excluded unless put on the white list. (Individual agreements with merchants).
  • $7.9m Indue
  • $1.6m ORIMA
  • $24m trial 2 sites
  • CDC $10k per person
  • CDC $2k per participant now the program is expanded to Hinkler.
  • What is the per capital calculation?
  • Underpinning run cost per card per capita?
  • $17.8m trial 2000 participants
  • Cost to gov per capita?
  • Program cost?
  • Trial cost? Bundaberg / Hervey Bay (commercial in confidence) 6,700 card holders for Hinkler
  • Goldfields / Ceduna trial cost? Details unavailable (numbers published 4yr cycle).
  • What services will the Government invest in?
  • What are the relationships between the Government, Indue and the big 4 banks?
  • Where are the employment opportunities?

How on earth did 33 members of the Senate vote ‘AYE’ when not even knowing how much this is costing taxpayers?

Senator WATERS (Queensland) (13:11): This is still not my first speech. Minister, forgive me if we’re going over some ground that we’ve already covered, but, just for clarity, can I ask: what is the estimated cost of expanding the card to the Hinkler region?
Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (13:11): I’m advised that it’s an additional $4 million. Sorry, let me just go through for you and let me just correct that number that I gave you. Funding for the Goldfields and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay trial areas was secured in the budget in 2017-18. The cost to establish the trial and operate for one year in Ceduna and the East Kimberley, as you probably already know, was $17.8 million, with about 2,200 people on the trial in those sites from 2016. The additional cost for the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay trial areas, as negotiations are still underway, can’t be finalised or advised.
Senator WATERS (Queensland) (13:12): Thanks, Minister. Sorry, but you said there was a budget line item. Was there no estimate for the Hinkler rollout?
Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (13:12): There would be, but at this stage it’s commercial-in-confidence.
Senator WATERS (Queensland) (13:13): Thank you. Just staying with that theme, you did say an extra $4 million before, but you’ve pulled that back.
Senator Fifield: Correct.
The TEMPORARY CHAIR (Senator Sterle): Sorry, Senator Waters. The minister just answered your question: ‘Correct.’
Senator WATERS: Yes, thank you. I’m just trying to get the figures straight.

How on earth did 33 members of the Senate vote ‘AYE’ when they had not read the community feedback reports?

Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (12:29): I will have to check the status and nature of the report, if it does indeed exist. If it’s possible to then of course we will.

How on earth did 33 members of the Senate vote ‘AYE’ to people conforming to the governments wishes without most of them even visiting the region and undertaking their own consultation?

Senator WATERS: Indeed. I just have a few questions—and, forgive me, I’m somewhat new to this area. I have just been in Bundaberg and had some fabulous consultation with the Say No to the Cashless Welfare Card Hervey Bay region people. They are dead against this card. They feel that it will increase stigma, it will reduce their autonomy and it won’t help them pay their bills. It will make it harder for them to live their lives. It certainly doesn’t empower them to make financial decisions about what they do with their own money. Is this just an ideological commitment from the government to tell people how to spend their money? There seems to be a disconnect there. I don’t think the minister has even been to the region and asked these people what they think.
There was a Senate inquiry that didn’t even get to the area. I managed to go and Senator Siewert managed to go. My predecessor, Senator Andrew Bartlett, managed to go, and I hear that a number of Labor senators have managed to go as well. When is the government going to send its minister to this region to actually listen to the community and hear that they don’t want this draconian approach to them spending what are already limited funds?
I note that yesterday Senator Siewert introduced her bill to increase Newstart and youth allowance, because they are clearly already below the poverty line. Then you are cracking down further on people who are doing it tough and who are doing their best, and who don’t need the patronising, dead hand of this painful Liberal government telling them what to do.

How on earth did 33 members of the Senate vote ‘AYE’ when they are still waiting on questions on notice?

Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia—Australian Greens Whip) (12:22): Can a trial participant stop being a trial participant if they become a full-time student studying away from the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area or become a new apprentice after being placed on the card?
Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (12:23): I need to take that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia—Australian Greens Whip) (12:23): You mean that your advisers don’t actually know the answer to that pretty important question?
Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (12:23): It’s an individualised circumstance, so they would need to check and take advice.

Read the full transcript here, see for yourself what questions where asked and learn the responses. Hansard

Judge for yourself. Don’t let party politics blind you. Be informed.

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