Cashless Debit Card - Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is the Cashless Debit Card and how does it work?

The Cashless Debit Card looks and operates like other bank cards, but cannot be used to buy alcohol or gambling products, or to withdraw cash. Eighty per cent of a person’s welfare payment is deposited onto the card, with the remainder placed in their usual bank account.

It applies to all people who receive a working age income support payment. People receiving the Age Pension or a Veteran’s Pension can also volunteer.

Why do you want to introduce this card to the Goldfields?

We are hoping to reduce the overall harm caused by welfare fuelled alcohol, gambling and drug misuse. From this, in the long term, we want to see communities that are safer and people using welfare money to look after themselves and their families.

Welfare should be a safety net for those who need it, not a means of facilitating serious damage to health and communities.

Will the Cashless Debit Card cause an increase in crime?

There is no evidence to suggest that crime will increase when the card is introduced. Some volume crime, such as burglaries, actually fell during the East Kimberley and Ceduna trials. For example, in the community of Kununurra, the number of burglaries over a four-month period fell from 35 in 2016 to 24 in 2017. The card will address some of the alcohol and drug-related issues that contribute to property crime.

Some people have said the Cashless Debit Card will cost $10,000 per person to introduce – is this true?

No – the suggested cost of $10,000 per person has been grossly misstated. There were substantial up-front costs related to the original Cashless Debit Card trial, including the cost of building the IT system that will not need to be replicated for future sites. Economies of scale mean the cost per person falls with the expansion of the trial.

Has there been a lack of consultation with the Goldfields community regarding the introduction of this card?

Absolutely not. The proposal to introduce the card to the Goldfields was made after extensive discussions with the community. The Department of Social Services has conducted approximately 270 consultations in the region, including attendance at over 100 meetings, with more than 70 different organisations.

This has included:

·         Over 27 consultations with the Local Governments across the five local government areas.

·         Over 60 consultations with representatives from 30 community sector organisations.

·         Over 45 consultations with frontline state government officials delivering health, education and public safety services.

·         Personally, I have held a series of meeting with community leaders and representatives, and conducted a petition and a postal survey

·         Former Human Services Minister Alan Tudge visited the Goldfields with me on three separate occasions

Will the Government be doing anything else to reduce social problems in the Goldfields, beyond introducing this card?

Yes. Under the cashless debit card scheme, the Government will invest more than $1.5 million to ensure that children and families in the Goldfields have a well-targeted, coordinated, effective system of support services during this trial. Additionally, the Department of Social Services is currently conducting a process that will streamline and coordinate the Government-funded support services already in place. There are already over 50 federally-funded services in the Goldfields that receive approximately $20 million each year in funding. Based on feedback from consultations, the rollout of the card will also include a new investment in service coordinator positions to assist participants to navigate the range of local support services available.


Why are people on the Disability Support Pension who have no history of drug or alcohol abuse included in this trial?

The Department consulted widely in the Goldfields region on what the parameters of the card should be, and there was strong feedback that for the card to be effective it should apply to people on a disability support pension. 

Where being placed onto the card will place any individual's wellbeing at risk, the Government will grant them an exemption, though this is not expected to be necessary in many cases. For most people, including people with disabilities, using a card is no different to receiving their Centrelink payments into their existing bank account. It should be noted that some DSP recipients in the Goldfields have already received an exemption.

What will happen if people find loopholes in the program? Won’t they find other ways to buy alcohol or drugs?  

To this point the card has proven to be flexible enough to respond to issues where and when they’ve been identified. If issues arise in the future, I am confident that we will be able to respond in a timely and appropriate manner. 

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