Parliament Speech: Cashless Debit Card trial approved

21/2/2018

After a long and hard-fought campaign, the Australian Senate last night approved legislation which will allow a trial of the Cashless Debit Card in the Goldfields.

Months of speculation have ended and, with the endorsement of both houses of Parliament, I believe we will see the rollout of this card starting within a matter of weeks.

We're going to see real change in the Goldfields – change that will help break the cycle of welfare dependency, alcohol abuse and decades of generational disadvantage.

This card will result in a community where welfare payments are spent on the essentials of life… food, clothing, shelter and transport.  

I would like to start by thanking the former Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, and his team, who worked so hard to get to this critical juncture.

I thank the current Minister for Social Services, Dan Tehan who kept the momentum going to pass this through the Lower House and now the Senate.

I thank the departmental team working on the ground in the Goldfields and their community implementation groups who are poised to start transitioning participants onto the card as soon as possible. 

I am grateful for the support of the entire Goldfields community, but would like to make special mention of indigenous leaders like:

  • Leonora’s Nana Gaye Harris who started the ball rolling in 2015 when she spoke to me after a spate of youth suicides.
  • I thank Laverton’s Bruce Smith and Janice Scott, who moved an entire room to tears with their heart-wrenching account of children living on the streets of Laverton, abandoned by parents on the grog.

I acknowledge the powerful words of respected Ngadju woman Betty Logan and her niece Amanda Bennell who…in the presence of the Prime Minister… challenged ‘nay-sayers’ :

“look into the eyes of a child suffering the effects of foetal alcohol syndrome… to look into the faces of the kids begging for food in the streets late at night… children who were not safe in their own homes….and not feel compassion.” 

I thank our Goldfields police who work under the most extraordinary of circumstances, in the frontline when alcohol-fuelled violence erupts or when lives are tragically cut short.

I thank the civic leaders of the Goldfields:

  • Laverton’s Shire President Patrick Hill
  • Leonora’s Jim Epis and Peter Craig
  • Jill Dwyer and Ian Tucker from the Shire of Menzies
  • Coolgardie’s Mal Cullen and James Traill

 and

  • Mayor John Bowler and John Walker of the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder

ALL have fought hard for this Card to help the communities they know and love.

I thank the Goldfields residents who supported this Card by signing my petitions or responding to my community survey.

Your support was my inspiration when the “knockers” spoke louder than those who stood to benefit from this trial.

This Card trial will be a new approach, because persisting with a system that has failed an entire generation of people is madness.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of people in the Goldfields over the last two years, but the words of a young Aboriginal man from Leonora have resonated with me:  

He said:

Albert Einstein once said: The definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting to see a different result….

The people who are against this card, are just afraid of change.

We need this change.

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