Mayor lobbies Canberra on Hedland welfare card trial

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph

Port Hedland mayor Camilo Blanco travelled to Canberra this week to press the case to trial the Federal Government’s controversial cashless debit welfare card in the town.

Speaking on his return today, Mr Blanco told the North West Telegraph that Federal Human Services Minister Alan Tudge supported the card being rolled out across the Pilbara.

Other North West councils are also lobbying the Government to trial the card, which restricts how welfare money can be used by recipients, including Broome.

Mr Blanco said securing a trial was now a matter of planning and community consultation, in conjunction with agencies and organisations, to ensure stakeholders were “educated and on board”.

“One of our priorities is resolving the alcohol abuse and harm in our community,” he said.

“Let’s not forget why we’re doing this — 552 kids on the streets over 19 nights.

“There’s a reason why these kids are on the street; the reasons their home environment is dysfunctional is because of alcohol.”

Mr Blanco also discussed with the Minister an injection of funding to get the trial started.

“We discussed how increased funding would be needed for government and non-government agencies to provide essential support services in correlation with the rollout of the cashless debit card, ensuring the necessary social services including drug and alcohol counselling and diversionary activities,” he said.

“These services are front and centre with the implementation of a program such as the welfare card.”

The Town of Port Hedland will now arrange similar meetings with State Government ministers in coming weeks.

Earlier this month, the council sought public views on alcohol management in the town after a spate of anti-social incidents.

Those strategies included the cashless debit card, takeaway limits for beer, spirits and wine purchased over a 24-hour period and court-ordered alcohol restrictions for people found guilty of alcohol-related crimes.

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