Cashless welfare card on its last legs as government swings axe

The government is attempting to scrap the cashless welfare card for more than 17,000 welfare recipients in remote communities.

Sep 26, 2022, updated Sep 26, 2022
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. (Image: Ben Searcy)

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. (Image: Ben Searcy)

The cards can carry up to 80 per cent of welfare payments – money that can’t be withdrawn in cash or spent on gambling or alcohol.

The repeal bill will be brought before the Senate on Monday after passing the lower house in August.

If passed this week, welfare recipients will be able to move off the card by October 4.

The coalition is fighting to keep the card, arguing it’ll lead to further violence and increase drug use in the remote communities.

Opposition health spokeswoman and former social services minister Anne Ruston is spearheading the fight to keep the card in the Senate.

The government on Saturday announced a suite of new measures to complement the card’s repeal, such as streamlining and strengthening income management measures for people on welfare.

This includes providing access to more businesses and enabling BPAY and online shopping.

Almost $50 million has also been put aside for additional alcohol and other drug treatment services as well as $17 million for community-led employment opportunities.

Additional staff for Services Australia will be put on to support the transition.

“This was a critical election announcement because the cashless debit card was a failed program that did not deliver good outcomes in communities,” said Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth announcing the measures.

But welfare recipients will be able to opt into an income management scheme.

“What we’re not going to do is force whole communities, by government telling them how to control their money and how to manage their money,” Rishworth said.

“That just doesn’t work.”

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