The cashless debit card (also known as the ‘cashless welfare card’) forces income support recipients to have 80 per cent of their payments quarantined to a debit card that cannot be used for gambling or to purchase alcohol, or to withdraw cash. The remaining 20 per cent of a person’s payment is placed into their normal bank account.
According to the Government, the card will be selectively applied in locations where “high levels of welfare dependence exist alongside high levels of harm related to drug and alcohol abuse”.
A trial of the card began in early 2016 in Ceduna (SA) and the East Kimberley (WA). In Ceduna and the East Kimberley, all working age recipients of income support are forced to use the card – regardless of their financial competence and drinking or drug habits.
In the 2017 Federal Budget, the Government announced the trial would be extended in Ceduna and East Kimberley, and expanded to the Goldfields (WA) and the Bundaberg/Hervey Bay regions (QLD). Proposed legislation was introduced which would have enabled the card to be extended to an unlimited number of places for an indefinite period.
However, opposition from the Senate forced the Government to scale back its planned expansion. Legislation was passed in February 2018 which allowed for a one-year extension of the trial in existing locations and expansion to one additional site, namely the Goldfields region of Western Australian. The roll-out of the card in the Goldfields region commenced in March 2018.
The Government has continued to push for additional trial sites, and in September 2018 the Senate gave conditional approval to a further expansion in the Hervey Bay and Bundaberg region. This latest expansion commenced in January 2019, and it will see the card imposed on around 6,700 young people (under age 36), making Bundaberg/Hervey Bay the largest trial site and bringing the total number of people subject to the cashless debit card to 15,000.