Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Cashless Debit Card

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:44): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs questions regarding cashless debit cards.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Concerns have been raised by Indigenous community leaders regarding the federal Labor government's decision to abolish the cashless debit card which has been operating in parts of South Australia, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland, targeting Indigenous communities in particular. Senator Jacinta Price opposed the move, stating:

It appears the government is only prepared to listen to those who are pushing to scrap the [cashless debit] card because it suits their agenda…There are Indigenous people seeing success in their…communities because of the card…It's about food versus alcohol [and] supporting families to make sure the bills are covered.

At a Senate committee on community affairs, Cape York Partnership founder, Noel Patterson, further criticised the cessation of the scheme, saying—

The Hon. K.J. Maher: Noel Patterson?

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Peterson, sorry.

The Hon. K.J. Maher: Pearson.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Peterson. He said:

We will have to give up hope on the idea that we can change anything for those Indigenous communities…The welfare reform work we have done over the last 20 years will collapse.

My questions to the minister for Aboriginal Affairs are:

1. What is the minister's response to the Indigenous leaders who have spoken out against the cessation of cashless debit cards?

2. Will the minister lobby the federal Labor government to reinstate the cashless debit card system to ensure that communities experience continued success due to the scheme?

3. If the cashless debit card is not reinstated, what measures will the state government introduce to ensure that Indigenous South Australians are not adversely impacted by the removal of cashless debit cards?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:46): I thank the honourable member for her question. I am not sure who the Cape York person the honourable member is referring to is; however, it is an important issue and it's an issue that I know that the federal government, who are responsible for this, have taken numerous soundings about.

I know that a former federal minister at the time, minister and then shadow minister, Jenny Macklin, has been to Ceduna where this has been instituted a number of times. I know that the current federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon. Linda Burney, has also been to Ceduna a number of times, and the minister who is responsible in this area, the Hon. Amanda Rishworth, has also been to Ceduna to listen to community concerns a number of times.

I have to say that if the honourable member thinks that there is a universal view that there should be compulsory income management in Ceduna or, indeed, other places, I don't think the honourable member has conducted the sort of consultation she chastises others for conducting. Certainly, I have heard a range of views in Ceduna about the income management on a card. I have heard some of the reasons why people are in favour of a card and would choose to be on it voluntarily.

I have also heard concerns and I have to say, over four or five years of visiting the West Coast regularly, increasing concerns about the ways that the card has disadvantaged people, including people buying goods on the card from supermarkets and other stores and then selling them for a fraction of their value to obtain cash, which has plunged people into further poverty than they would have been in if they had access to cash.

I know that the minister in charge federally, the Hon. Amanda Rishworth, has been to Ceduna herself to talk to locals about what the federal government's plans are, and I support that sort of direct consultation with those who are affected by such initiatives. I know that there is a range of views by policymakers. The honourable member I think quotes Senator Jacinta Price. I would never presume that Senator Price's views are universally shared by Aboriginal people and certainly, in a range of areas, I think they are a small minority of views in the Aboriginal community in different areas that Senator Price holds views about.

I know also that the federal government is looking at putting millions of dollars of further support in place in areas that have been subject to income management, which has affected largely Aboriginal people in those areas. I welcome and encourage the federal government to continue consulting and to continue putting supports in place in these sorts of areas.