ON THE AGENDA: Luke Hartsuyker supports the concept of a cashless welfare card.
ON THE AGENDA: Luke Hartsuyker supports the concept of a cashless welfare card. Amanda Coop

Cashless welfare card on The Nationals' agenda

CASHLESS welfare was on the agenda at The Nationals' federal council last month.

A number of other motions made the headlines including a call for a dedicated agriculture visa and a regional visa, which would require immigrants to live and work outside the major cities.

The motion in relation to cashless welfare proposed that every Australian under 35 years on a parenting payment or the dole be forced on to a cashless debit card, dramatically extending welfare control.

According to The Nationals Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker the motion was deferred.

"This is quite a complicated matter so it was referred to a policy committee. It wasn't passed or lost."

Mr Hartsuyker, who is retiring from politics at the next federal election, was the Assistant Minister for Employment from September 2013 to September 2015 and the Minister for Vocational Education and Skills from September 2015 to February 2016.

He had this to say about the recent motion:

"I think it's important that children get fed and that welfare money is spent wisely and the welfare card can contribute to that."

He admits there have been some 'teething problems' with the current trials being conducted into the card.

An Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report found the evidence about its effectiveness is unreliable with major flaws in the data collection used to evaluate the scheme.

It pointed to missing data as part of the problem, such as hospital admission figures for Kununurra and Wyndham where trials have taken place.

The idea of the cashless welfare card was born out of the review of the welfare system in 2014 by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest.

Critics of the system say it is an overly paternalistic intervention in people's lives which undermines personal freedoms and is unlikely to achieve its aims.

Despite these concerns and questions over the validity of the trials, Mr Hartsuyker backs the scheme.

"The results of the trial have concluded that it could be expanded across Australia. It's not about picking one town over another.

"Certainly as a matter of principle it has a lot to commend it."