Goldfields most likely for cashless card trial says Price

Peter de KruijffThe Kimberley Echo
Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge and Member for Durack Melissa Price at the launch of the card in the Kimberley last year.
Camera IconMinister for Human Services Alan Tudge and Member for Durack Melissa Price at the launch of the card in the Kimberley last year. Credit: Cally Dupe

The Federal government has earmarked funding through to the middle of next year for current Cashless Debit Card trials as speculation ramps up on where two new trials will be run.

The card was introduced to the East Kimberley and South Australian town of Ceduna in March and April last year.

It quarantines 80 per cent of welfare payments so it can’t be spent on gambling, buying alcohol or withdrawn as cash.

In March this year the government announced it would extend current trials to June in anticipation of a final report on the first year of the scheme.

A regional budget statement from Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash on Tuesday said the trials would be funded a further year.

Such extensions would have to make it through a vote in parliament.

The paper said two new communities would join the trial and were likely to be regional sites.

“While the expansion communities have not yet been identified or agreed, the Department of Social Services is working with communities that are expressing an interest in joining the trial,” the paper said.

“The expansion is also likely to improve access to banking services, and telecommunications infrastructure in remote and regional areas.”

Although the Shire of Broome has been vocal and eager to take part in the trial, the Federal member for the Durack, Melissa Price, said it was more likely a community in the Goldfields would be successful.

“At the moment, the next destination for a trial site in Western Australia would most likely be somewhere in the Goldfields like Leonora, Laverton and/or Kalgoorlie,” she said.

“There will be a decision on where the card is rolled out at a later date, after a lengthy and exhaustive consultation process.

“The Federal government will choose the most organised regional communities, who have indicated they would like the program rolled out in their town.”

The Town of Port Hedland in the Pilbara is another community which has expressed interest in the card with its Mayor travelling to Canberra to lobby for it.

Ms Price said she wanted residents of communities in favour of the cards to contact her office. “Together we can work toward rolling the program out across regional WA,” she said.

“It is my understanding that there is scope for an expansion of the program at the next funding opportunity.”

Funding appears to be assigned to the program through to the 2018-19 financial year but the government hasn’t disclosed how much money it would spend.

This is because it has to negotiate with third parties on cost and doesn’t know which communities the card will be rolled out to next yet.

The government has spent an estimated $18.9 million on the trial according to freedom of information data released by DSS.

Nearly $8 million of it was given to the company Indue which operates the card system.

About $2.6 million has been spent by the government on administrative costs.

The Labor party is waiting for the final report on the first two trials to decide how its policy on the cards.

Shadow minister for social services Jenny Macklin visited the East Kimberley recently but said Labor was in favour of a community by community approach rather than a mass rollout.

In his budget speech the treasurer Scott Morrison said JobSeeker recipients who test positive for newly mandated drug tests would be put on the card for their welfare payments.

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