NXT backs time extension for cashless debit cards but not more sites

21 Jul 2020

Posted February 07, 2018

The Nick Xenophon Team has called on the Federal Government to “do its homework” on the Cashless Debit Card before its Members will back any move to extend the number of trial sites from the three currently allowed.

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie, NXT’s Spokesperson for Social Services, said NXT would support a 12-month extension of the existing trial but nothing else until they had seen concrete evidence that the cards were helping communities in a meaningful way.

“We don’t have confidence in the quality of the evidence they have collected to date so we’ve told the Government ‘go away, do your homework at your existing sites’ and then they will have more robust data about whether this card is truly supporting people to address addiction and that it’s improving the social and economic conditions of communities,” Rebekha said.

“This is significant public policy, and we should not be going beyond the original number of trial sites while we have inconclusive data.

“We’re not going to support further roll-outs across the nation until the Government has got the evidence that this works.

“We have made it clear to the Government that we will support a further year so it can obtain accurate data at the existing trial sites at Ceduna in South Australia and the East Kimberley region in Western Australia.

“The Government already has the legislative power to set up a third trial site, understood to be the Goldfields in Western Australia.

"This site must collect robust baseline data to ascertain the card's effectiveness."

NXT has called for a longitudinal study with robust qualitative analysis of recipients using the Cashless Debit Card.

“Even ORIMA, the consultancy commissioned by the Government to evaluate this scheme, has admitted there are some challenges in the data they have collected so far,” Rebekha said.

“We’ve had a number of academics at the Australian National University, including Dr Janet Hunt, come out and say there are some real failings in how ORIMA has collected the data.

“Let’s get some conclusive evidence before we expand it any further into larger communities.

“We need to know if this card reduces crime, reduces homelessness, puts food in the fridge and helps children stay in school, and right now we don't have these answers.

“We also need to know more about the unintended consequences such as purported increases in prostitution and property break-ins, a rise in ‘humbugging’ relatives on the aged pension and an influx of pawnbrokers into communities.

“It's been reported that each recipient costs about $10,000 to manage.

"That's significant so we need to know this works before more taxpayer money is spent on a national expansion.

“The other aspect is that we need to have the widespread consent of the communities where we roll out this card.”

The Cashless Debit Card was rolled out in the South Australia site in March 2016 and in Western Australia in April 2016 with legislative scope for a third site to be selected.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 seeks to remove the limit on the number of trial sites, currently three.

The Bill passed in the House of Representatives yesterday and is now being debated in the Senate.

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