Will Govt support Bill to end Cashless Welfare Card?

Article published 3 November 2021

Will Govt support Bill to end Cashless Welfare Card?

FEDERAL Labor Member of Parliament, Julian Hill, introduced the ‘Protecting Pensioners from the Cashless Debit Card Bill’ on 25 October that will end the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) program entirely by 31 January 2022 if it is supported by the Australian Government.

Pensioners aren’t the only ones affected by the Cashless Welfare Card. In fact, when it comes to Age Pensioners, there are only about two dozen. But if you are on a Disability Support Pension or a Carer Payment and you live in a Card trial area, you are on this Card. You don’t get a choice, which is the most objectionable thing about the Card. If it was voluntary, it would be OK.

Labor’s Bill says that the current CDC program frustrates and weakens two international human rights: the right to social security and the right to self-determination. Labor has committed to scrapping the CDC if it wins the next election and the introduction of this Bill shows it is willing to offer more than promises but actual legislation to end the program.

However, it looks like the Bill is unlikely to gain Government support. The Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston, responded to the Bill in a media release, indicating that the Government is hard and fast on keeping the program in place.

Ruston, who is responsible for the ongoing management of the CDC, said the Government “…will not force age pensioners onto the Cashless Debit Card. We were never going to, and never will.”

However, THE VOICE reported earlier that 20 Age Pensioners in Cape York are already on the CDC, fourteen of whom were forced onto the CDC by the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC).

Within the explanatory memorandum of an amendment to CDC legislation the FRC said it does not support the exclusion of Age Pensioners from the CDC.

So sure, the Government did not force Age Pensioners in Cape York onto the CDC, but they passed the legislation that allows the FRC to force Age Pensioners onto the CDC.

It is also important to remember that on 11 February 2020, Minister Ruston voted against a motion in the Senate that would have forced the Government to be transparent about its future plans for the CDC.

The Minister says the Government will never put Age Pensioners on the CDC but then votes against motions that would outline how the CDC will be used in the future. How can Age Pensioners find reassurance in the Minister’s words?

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