Media Release by The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Labor must support Welfare Debit Card legislation in Senate

Last Friday, the Labor Party asked for six issues to be addressed to secure their support in the Senate on Monday for the welfare debit card legislation.

Today, I have responded to each issue in a detailed 26 page document.

The Bill authorising the debit card trial in up to three locations passed through the House of Representatives earlier this year without dissent.

The debit card trial, to begin in February 2016, is aimed at addressing the immense harm caused by welfare-fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse. Income support recipients in the trial regions will receive 80 percent of their welfare payments via an ordinary bank debit card that will work anywhere for the purchase of anything, but will not work at liquor stores or gambling houses and will not allow the withdrawal of cash.

Additional drug and alcohol services and financial management expertise is also part of the trial to assist people eliminate or reduce their dependence on alcohol, drugs and gambling.

The first trial site will be the Ceduna region in South Australia. The community leaders have co-designed the trial with the government and want to see it implemented, stating:

We want to build a future for our younger generation to aspire to and believe we cannot do this if our families are caught up in the destructive cycle of alcohol or drugs that destroys our culture…We have grasped this initiative; we have helped shape this initiative; and we are confident that that this initiative is for the betterment of all people within our region.

Three members of the community leadership group will be in Canberra to stress that they want the trial to proceed.

Ms Macklin said herself in the House debate that all Members of Parliament need to back the community leaders stating:

The community leaders have made it very clear to me–that alcohol abuse is continuing to devastate the lives of too many people and their families. I know the community is desperate. We cannot now turn our back on what they are telling us. We cannot tell them that they are on their own. Rather, all of us need to listen to their calls for help and do what we can to support them, to make sure that the change they so desperately need and want is delivered.

The South Australian government is also supporting the trial.

I have responded in detail to all of Labor’s concerns and hope that the Labor Party will not turn their back on the Ceduna community by opposing this legislation.

My response to the Labor Party’s concerns are here: