Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Debit Card to Improve Income Management

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator Joe Ludwig, Minister for Human Services

The Australian Government is introducing a new debit card to make it easier for people on income management to put food on the table for children and reduce the red-tape burden placed on small retailers.

The Australian Government is investing more than $17 million to improve the delivery of income management by providing a personalised, pin-protected debit card for customers to use when purchasing essential goods and services.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and the Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, today announced that the new income management debit card will be available for use early in the new financial year.

The Government is committed to a child-centred approach to family policy. Income management is a practical measure to ensure welfare payments are spent in the interests of children.

“The debit card will make it easier for people on income management to buy essential items,” Ms Macklin said. “Customers will not be allowed to purchase alcohol, tobacco or pornography, use the debit card for gambling or to withdraw cash.”

“The previous ad-hoc system of income management had high administrative costs for government and imposed excessive red-tape on the business community,” Senator Ludwig said. “This card will mean that we can focus on helping people care for and support their children.”

Centrelink will issue the debit card to customers and provide support to those who may need assistance in learning how to use the card. Centrelink will work with local businesses during the rollout and accreditation of the new system.

For most customers, the debit card will replace the existing income management system which uses store cards and accounts. Customers will still be able to use store cards, direct payment to stores or retailers under certain circumstances.

The new card will be more secure than store cards and the ability to reload the debit card with new funds each payment period will provide more convenience for customers.

The current system of delivering income managed funds is inflexible for customers, especially those in larger communities such as Alice Springs, Darwin and Katherine.

The debit card will first be available to customers in the NT and selected Western Australian communities for the duration of income management in those areas.

The card can be used in shops with EFTPOS facilities which adhere to the Australian Government’s terms and conditions.

Conditions include agreeing under contract not to sell alcohol, tobacco and other prohibited goods to customers using the debit card.

Using the EFTPOS network will make more data available for better-targeted compliance checks aimed at detecting breaches.

A special brand recognition symbol will be developed to help customers identify which stores and merchants have been approved to accept the debit card.