Debate rages on debit card

Robert DoughertyNorth West Telegraph

An expansion of the Federal Government’s cashless welfare card to Kalgoorlie has sparked fresh debate for its introduction into Port Hedland.

Trials in Kununurra and Ceduna in South Australia have showed the card could quarantine 80 per cent of a welfare recipients’ income support payments, curbing purchases for alcohol or gambl-ing.

That program has been extended until June 2019 and on February 12 was also expanded to the Goldfields after an amendment to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 passed the Senate.

Town of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco said social issues in the Pilbara and Goldfields were a big problem, but he thought the card’s introduction was a step in the right direction.

“It’s a great outcome for the Goldfields; clearly they have significant social issues and they’re tackling those social issues head on,” he said.

“The Pilbara towns need to come together and co-ordinate a joint plan to reduce the social issues that have been going on for generations. It’s a huge problem, costing the Australian people significant amounts of money.”

Mr Blanco also said he did not support the Australian and WA Greens parties’ campaigns to end the card’s trials.

“People are forgetting the whole reason behind our welfare system was to ensure Australians didn’t starve; it’s not to use on gambling, to buy drugs or alcohol,” he said.

“I think we are taking minority groups views into account over the majority position of the community. It’s just a great decision, that will benefit their community.”

The Town of Port Hedland council previously voted 5-3 against the card’s introduction in November last year.

A Bloodwood Tree, Yamatiji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation and the Yule River on-country bush meeting supported the refusal while a ToPH Alcohol Management Survey at the time showed 72 per cent of people surveyed supported the item.

YMAC chief executive Simon Hawkins said the card would not fix the problem. “The fundamental issue that the Government should focus on is the weak economic environment in the locations where the trials are taking place,” he said.

Minderoo’s GenerationOne initiative chief executive Tim McDonald said the organisation which works to end the disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians welcomed the decision.

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