The Greens are calling on the Senate to reject the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019 following the senate inquiry report into the Bill and listen to the lived experiences of people on the card and compulsory income management in the NT.
“This Government does not have sound evidence to justify rolling out the card in the NT or extending the current trial sites. It relies on anecdotal evidence, misleading data and evaluations that are heavily criticised for their lack of rigour to support their claims that cashless debit card is working," Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens spokesperson on Family and Community Services said today.
“We heard some heart breaking evidence through this inquiry, of the deep poverty that people on compulsory income management in the NT are experiencing, how the underlying causes of disadvantage are not being addressed and the harsh impact income management has had on people in the NT for 12 years.
“It's one thing to make plans far away in an office in a capital city and another to listen to the lived experiences of people, living on income support, living in poverty and struggling under income quarantining. This card does not assist people with the barriers they face and its makes peoples’ lives harder.
“Witnesses to the inquiry said there was no evidence of income management having resulted in changes to spending or consumption, including on alcohol, tobacco, fresh fruit and vegetables and in fact most remote communities are dry anyway.
“The link between a reduction in birthweight and the rollout of income management in the NT is deeply concerning and demonstrates the harmful effects of compulsory income management.
“The cashless debit card is not only failing to achieve some of its so-called core objectives it is making life a lot harder for people on income support and could be contributing to the growing number of people disengaging from the social security system.
“Witnesses gave evidence about how the Government’s imposition of compulsory income management contradicts its commitment to Closing the Gap Refresh co-design process and told the Committee that this measure is likely to undermine progress on closing the gap.
“The Australian Greens reject the Committee view that the Department of Social Services is “actively engaging with stakeholders".
“The evidence the Committee received directly contradicted this. We are concerned about the fundamental lack of genuine consultation with First Nations communities in the NT and communities in the existing trial sites.
“The Government’s paternalistic approach to income management is further evident through the short inquiry process and absence of hearings in remote communities in the Northern Territory, Cape York or the East Kimberley.
“This demonstrates the Government is ignoring calls from First Nations peoples for meaningful co-design, self-determination and collaboration on measures that affect their lives.
“This is the fifth legislation inquiry into the cashless debit card, none of which can provide quantitative evidence of the positive impacts of these measures.
“It's shameful that the Government is pursuing this, it has not listened to or been moved by the evidence submitted to the inquiry.
“I really hope that my Senate colleagues will listen to this evidence and not be swayed by Government propaganda and vote for people on low incomes in our communities to end this punitive and stigmatising program which means opposing this Bill.
The Australian Greens dissenting report can be found here.
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180