The cashless welfare card (also known as the ‘cashless debit 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. An amended version of their original proposal was passed by the Senate in February 2018, allowing for a one-year extension of the trial in the current locations and expansion to one additional site. The Government subsequently announced the new site would be Kalgoorlie-Boulder in Western Australia.

Although moves to further expand the trial were blocked by the Senate, the Government continues to push for additional trial sites. On 30 May 2018, a Bill was introduced to Parliament to expand the trial to Hervey Bay and Bundaberg. The Bill targets around 6,700 young people (under age 36), which would make Bundaberg/Harvey Bay the largest trial site. If passed, this Bill will bring the total number of people subject to the cashless debit card to 15,000.