SUBJECTS: Cashless Welfare Card, Drug Testing Politicians
DAVID KOCH: … Cashless Welfare Cards nationwide as parliament resumes in Canberra. Under the Scheme, 80 per cent of a welfare payment is put on the debit card so it can’t be used to buy alcohol, gamble, purchase gift cards or get cash-out. The PM says it’s part of a compassionate, conservative welfare agenda, but Labor critics describe the policy as mean and nasty, and the cause of more financial stress.
NATALIE BARR: For his take this morning, the ALP’s Joel Fitzgibbon joins us – morning to you. So the Australian Council of Social Services says these cashless cards are stigmatising and impractical: what do you think of them?
JOEL FITZGIBBON: Good morning team, I am missing Barnaby already, I am sure he would have made a solid contribution to this debate…
KOCH: Yep, he’s here – We’ll get to him.
BARR: First to you, what do you think of these cards?
FITZGIBBON: Barnaby… Well, look they don’t work this is the problem. The Labor party is up for supporting any initiative which breaks the cycle of inter-generation unemployment, which helps people break the cycle of substance abuse, and initially, of course, these cashless cards were about avoiding social harm; they weren’t really an employment policy initiative. So we are up for the conversation, but it seems to me this is just another distraction by Scott Morrison. When have you ever seen the Prime Minister talk about intervening on at risk children at kindergarten level, talking about investing more in skills and education so that people have the best opportunity? You see, he’s turned now to demonising people on income support when typically people on income support are not young people who might be addicted to drugs, but more mature adult Australians who have been a victim on the structuring of the economy; sole parents with a couple of kids, typically the male is older than 55, so this problem we face takes a more sophisticated response than just demonising a bunch of people…
KOCH: Ok, alright Joel. Barnaby, what do you think of this?
BARNABY JOYCE: I think that you got to have a contract with the Australian people and what they are saying is that they don’t want money to be misspent. We want to be generous but we can’t have money being misspent and, of course, if people are not in a condition to get a job then we are not helping them. If people do have a problem with drugs, they do have a problem with, you know illicit drugs – then there is a whole range of things. We are actually supporting a drug problem in regional towns by providing money for people to spend on it, and secondly the person who is taking those drugs needs help and has no hope in getting a job, so I think it is actually incumbent upon on us to have proper oversight over people who are using the tax payers’ money, for the tax payers’ benefit, and also for that person’s benefit. The Cashless Debit Card was unpopular until they started using it, now it is popular because people say the money is being spent in the right areas.
BARR: Yeah, Joel if you’re taking the money and putting it on the card, so the card can only be used for food, and stuff that’s going to help a family, what’s bad about that?
FITZGIBBON: Think about the 55 year old women whose worked as a nurse all of her whole life and is now in a regional area caring for her unwell mother, who is now being told she that doesn’t have sufficient responsibility, or isn’t responsible enough, to use her carer’s payment in a responsible way but can only use it on x, y and z. And, of course, you can only us it where people are certified to accept the card so it is not so simple and I challenge Barnaby when he says it has been successful, that’s not what the Auditor General’s report says and, of course, it can work in some communities where the communities are part of the process and have invited the process. But, this idea now that you can take what has been a pretty unsuccessful scheme and roll it out across the country, including in suburbs of Sydney, is not right. It’s not going to work; it’s expensive of course to rollout and I would like to see us to a do a combination of things including investing in people who do need a bit of a leg up, and there is two false assumptions here: and one is everyone on income support is an unemployed person on drugs, and everyone who is on drugs is an unemployed person, and they’re both false assumptions.
KOCH: Alright, ok – look the other thing the Coalition wants to revive: drug testing plan for welfare recipients. Jacqui Lambie says “yes she’ll back that only is politicians are willing to be drug tested”. Barnaby, are you willing to be drug tested and you think all your colleagues would be happy with that?
BARNABY: I got no problems with it, I don’t think it’s right that someone should be passing laws to stop people sticking crap up their nose and them doing it themselves. Of course I’ve got absolutely no problems whatsoever in drug testing our politicians and I don’t know – ask Joel, he will take about 20 minutes to answer you – off you go.
KOCH: Joel: yes or no? You’re happy to be drug tested?
FITZGIBBON: That’s because I’ve got something meaningful to say Barnaby. And look, I am happy to be drug tested three times a day…
JOYCE: I’m just going to make a cup of coffee.
FITZGIBBON: … but I would like to see a sophisticated response to some pretty sophisticated problems. And these, again, are just distractions. Again, we’ve got this high growth of people over 55 years of age requiring income support because the Government is not acting in the economy, but we can’t just fix it by drug testing people.
BARR: A lot of industries do have to have drug tests – that’s half of the cause so that is pretty normal.
KOCH: Ok gents, thank you for that.