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 cant be used to buy alcohol, gamble, purchase gift cards or get cash-out. The PM says its 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 ALPs 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, hes here Well get to him.
BARR: First to you, what do you think of these cards?
FITZGIBBON: Barnaby Well, look they dont 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 werent 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, hes 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 dont want money to be misspent. We want to be generous but we cant 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 persons 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 youre taking the money and putting it on the card, so the card can only be used for food, and stuff thats going to help a family, whats 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 doesnt have sufficient responsibility, or isnt responsible enough, to use her carers 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, thats not what the Auditor Generals 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. Its not going to work; its 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 theyre 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 shell 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 dont think its right that someone should be passing laws to stop people sticking crap up their nose and them doing it themselves. Of course Ive got absolutely no problems whatsoever in drug testing our politicians and I dont know ask Joel, he will take about 20 minutes to answer you off you go.
KOCH: Joel: yes or no? Youre happy to be drug tested?
FITZGIBBON: Thats because Ive got something meaningful to say Barnaby. And look, I am happy to be drug tested three times a day
JOYCE: Im 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, weve 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 cant just fix it by drug testing people.
BARR: A lot of industries do have to have drug tests thats half of the cause so that is pretty normal.
KOCH: Ok gents, thank you for that.