When a government introduces a measure that is expensive and not supported by evidence, it is reasonable to ask whether there is another agenda.

The cashless debit card has been rationalised by the rhetoric of substance abuse and anti-social behaviour, and linked to alleged deficits in the character and capacity of income support recipients. It is part of a package of punitive measures and cuts to social security, including a drug-testing trial for income support recipients, longer payment waiting periods, and increased activity requirements and non-compliance penalties for unemployed people. Such policies push people further into poverty and seem designed to strip recipients of their dignity and agency.

Such measures also deflect attention away from the underlying causes of poverty and disadvantage, and scapegoat income support recipients for not being able to find work. This puts the blame for unemployment on those who are the victims of a system that is not currently producing enough jobs. Rather than blaming unemployed people, governments need to work with the community and the unemployed to create more paid work and genuine pathways to employment.