The ACTU welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission to the Committee on this bill and the program to which it refers. The ACTU has opposed the cashless welfare card program since its inception, and we have seen no reason to alter this stance. The concerns the ACTU raised when this matter was last considered in 2017, when the trial was expanded for the first time, remain valid in our view. We urge the Committee to recommend that this bill not be passed, or at least recommend changes to allow welfare recipients to opt-in (and out) of the card.

The cashless welfare card program, which this bill seeks to expand and to make permanent, is yet another example of this government’s obsessive focus on the lives and behaviour of the Australians receiving unemployment support. That the Government has stuck with this program thus far absent any real signs of efficacy is more evidence of their determination to patronise and infantilise the disadvantaged with programs such as this one. The fact that a significant proportion of job seekers affected by this program are Indigenous Australians makes it all the more unacceptable. Surely this group of Australians has experienced enough government dictation over their lives for ‘their own good’. Not only is this program unreasonable and borderline discriminatory, but the evidence that it works, on which the proposed expansion and continuation of the program is based, is questionable and may be inaccurate. In light of these factors, we encourage the government to at least make the program voluntary, if not to halt the program immediately and to suspend any plans to make it a permanent feature of the income support system.