Cashless Welfare Card

December 07, 2020

I think it's relatively unknown in this place that I've spent several years of my life working in the Northern Territory.

Mr Snowdon interjecting—

Ms TEMPLEMAN: Yes, the member for Lingiari knows. I share his fondness for the Territory. For nearly two decades, every few weeks I would go and spend a week in Darwin or Alice working with a range of Aboriginal organisations, government agencies and not-for-profits. And bit by bit I gathered a deep understanding of the ongoing, hard and deadly issues that face people in the Northern Territory, face our First Peoples. These issues have failed to be solved by successive governments.

I was working there when the intervention happened. When I look at this legislation I reflect back on the brutality of that time, on the way people in the Northern Territory, Aboriginal and Tiwi Islanders, had their rights totally stripped away from them. They talked to me of the shame of driving to their communities and seeing signs up telling people the revelations and the concerns about what wouldn't be allowed in their communities—nothing that they had given consent to. This was stuff that was imposed on them. I think that's what we are seeing here. We are seeing a mandatory enforcement of a cashless welfare card where people have not been genuinely consulted. It's an insult to them.

I have questions for the minister. I want to quote the Prime Minister. I don't often do that, but I really want to quote the Prime Minister here who, at the Closing the Gap speech in parliament this year, said:

We thought we were helping when we replaced independence with welfare. This must change. We must restore the right to take responsibility. The right to make decisions. The right to step up. The opportunity to own and create Australian's own futures.

The government partnership agreement on Closing the Gap states:

…direct engagement and negotiation is the preferred pathway to productive and effective outcomes.

Given those very important statements, my first questions to the minister is: given this card strips away agency and responsibility from thousands of people, simply because of who they are and where they live, how is the government's policy consistent with the Prime Minister's comments that First Nations people have the right to take responsibility and the right to make decisions? My second question is, and this is a crucial one: does every community where this card is to be imposed support it? What process has the government followed to get the support of hundreds of communities across the Northern Territory? Because that is the big gap in this whole proposal: the lack of genuine consultation, the lack of listening to evidence about it. They're not even releasing the report by The University of Adelaide. The minister admitted to not having read the report—not even the executive summary.

There are concerns for the impact this will have on Aboriginal people not just in the Northern Territory but across this country and how it may be extended to people in the electorates that every one of us represent—to people in Macquarie, pensioners, those on youth allowance, those who for a period of time are requiring social support, those for whom there is a long-term requirement or people on disability pensions? There are concerns for all those people. Can you imagine for pensioners, whose lives shrink as they get older and their incomes reduce, how this would shrink their lives even more?

I have other questions to the minister. How many jobs did the cashless debit card create in each of the trial sites?How many will it create in the NT? I wonder about the effect it will have on small businesses in my community if it's rolled out. Crucially, there's no evidence that it changes behaviours. I ask the minister: how many drug and alcohol rehab places are available in each cashless debit card site? Can the minister guarantee that there are no waiting lists and there is enough help to meet demand?