CASHING IN: Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletch, with Hinkler MP Keith Pitt at the Cashless Card launch last year. The trail will now be extended.
CASHING IN: Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletch, with Hinkler MP Keith Pitt at the Cashless Card launch last year. The trail will now be extended. Alistair Brightman

Sweeping changes for Cashless Card

THE Cashless Debit Card is set to be extended, expanded and improved.

After trailing the card across a number of sites including Hervey Bay, Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher today announced the Federal Government would extend the Cashless Debit Card from January 2020.

About 22,500 Income Management participants will transition from the BasicsCard onto the Cashless Debit Card, he said.

"The Cashless Debit Card offers a more streamlined approach to welfare quarantining and benefits to taxpayers, with operational costs of well under $1000 per head in the most recent expansion site," Mr Fletcher said.

The government will also commit funding for an additional 12 months across existing trial sites, including Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, to June 30 2021, Mr Fletcher said.

"These communities have done the hard work," he said.

"They have put their hands up for this initiative because they were determined to tackle the scourge of welfare-funded drug, alcohol and gambling abuse in their communities - and their courage has been rewarded."

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt welcomed the trial extension.

"The trial is well underway in Hinkler and progressing well," Mr Pitt said.

"The feedback I have received has been positive and I look forward to seeing the results of the trial in due course."

"The Cashless Debit Card is about ensuring that welfare payments are spent on the essentials and limiting the amount of cash which could be spent on alcohol, gambling or illicit substances. I hope we see some real change in terms of welfare dependency in this region."

Last week, Mr Pitt accused Greens Senator Rachel Siewert of "scaremongering" after she said experts had slammed the Federal Government for using trial site evaluations to justify the extension of the Cashless Debit Card trials.

"Academics and researchers are now at a loss as to how one would even begin to undertake a proper evaluation because the approach has been so haphazard, particularly given that no proper baseline data has been collected at any of the trial sites," Ms Siewert said.

Mr Fletcher said the card's technology would be improved to automatically decline transactions, online or in store, if the purchase included restricted items such as alcohol or gambling products.

"In direct response to feedback from card participants we are also introducing the ability to accrue interest," Mr Fletcher said.