The Federal Government is refusing to name the “community leaders” it claims support a Centrelink income management trial, amid a push to dramatically expand the program in May’s budget.
- Greens asked Government to provide names of community leaders involved in discussions over the trial
- Government said some members of working groups “requested their names not be provided”
- The Coalition has justified the initiative by pointing to consultations with key figures in the locations it operates
The Cashless Debit Card forces 80 per cent of a person’s welfare payments onto the card, which cannot pay for alcohol or gambling or be withdrawn as cash.
The Coalition has repeatedly justified the initiative by pointing to consultations with key figures in the locations it operates.
But after being pressed by the Greens in Senate Estimates to name those supporters, the Government refused.
“The [Human Services] department approached some of the members of the … groups to ask whether they agreed to their names being provided in this response,” its statement said.
“Some of them requested their names not be provided at this stage.”
The compulsory program currently operates in two areas with high Aboriginal populations — Ceduna in South Australia and Western Australia’s East Kimberley region.
Greens Indigenous affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said it was a rubbish response.
“People being affected have the right to know who in their community is making the calls that affect their lives so strongly,” she said.
“Who are the people that are making these decisions? Are they really the people the community considers leaders?”
Refusal comes after MP backtracks on claims of support
The Government is searching for other communities where welfare quarantining can be rolled out.
“We’re hoping to see another 10 trial sites rolled out in this year’s budget,” Kalgoorlie-based federal Liberal MP Rick Wilson said.
But fellow WA Liberal Melissa Price was recently forced to backtrack on a claim that communities were clamouring for the card.
Several councils told the ABC Ms Price had never even discussed the issue with them.
A government-funded report last month found a quarter of drinkers on the card reported consuming alcohol less often and many people had stopped gambling.
But the report showed one in two participants said their life was worse because of the card.
Less than a quarter of those in the trials said it improved their lives.
Support ‘across the board’ for welfare measure, says Tudge
There are three community groups working with the Government to implement the program.
Invited by the ABC to name supporters of the measure — including from its working groups — Human Services Minister Alan Tudge named one person.
“These community leaders, such as Ian Trust, are well-known figures, highly respected individuals,” he said.
Mr Trust is the executive director of the Wunan Foundation, an Aboriginal development organisation in the East Kimberley.
During a recent visit to the Kimberley, Mr Tudge said support was “across the board”.
“Whether it be some of the church leaders, the police officers, the supermarket owners, the ambulance drivers, the Indigenous leaders, the non-Indigenous leaders [or] the chamber of commerce,” he said.
“Anybody who has been out with me and consulted with community leaders out there does know that is the case.”
Mr Tudge said the Greens’ opposition was blindly ideological and demanded the party offer its own solutions to the “welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse” in some Aboriginal communities.