Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders speaks at a meeting regarding the potential introduction of the cashless welfare card.
Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders speaks at a meeting regarding the potential introduction of the cashless welfare card.

'If you can buy food, pay rent and buy drugs, be treasurer'

FOR many gathered at the Hervey Bay Community Centre to discuss the potential introduction of the cashless welfare card, it was the quote of the day.

During the question and answer session, an older man said that if someone on welfare could gamble, buy food, pay rent and were still able to buy drugs, they should immediately be made treasurer.

The comment was met with laughter and applause from those gathered, most of whom were protesting the possible introduction of the cashless card to the Hinkler region.

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt suggested the card could be introduced to the region last month and the possible rollout of the card in the region has been met with a mixed response.

Armed police were on hand for crowd control at a meeting about the Cashless Debit Card in Hervey Bay on Wednesday.

Protesters gathered outside the Mantra Hotel in Hervey Bay, where Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Keith Pitt were meeting with business people. 

Mr Pitt said this week that he had mailed out survey forms to a sample of constituents and, with about 1000 forms returned so far, there had been 70% support for the card.

Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders and Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson both attended the meeting to express their concerns about the card and how it might affect residents in their respective cities.

Mr Saunders asked for a show of hands at the start of his speech, asking those gathered "who's a druggie?"

He said it was unfair that an assumption was made that people on welfare spent their money inappropriately or spent their money on drugs. 

Mr Saunders said Mr Pitt needed to talk to people and listen to their concerns.

"I've called on Keith Pitt today to get a bit of backbone, come and meet people."

Mr Saunders said community consultation was needed.

He said it would cost $180 million a year to implement the cashless card, which was money that could be better spent on the region's housing, domestic violence and mental health services needs.

Over five years, that would add up to $1 billion, Mr Saunders said.

"It's public money going into private pockets."

Mr Saunders said the money being spent on introduce the card would generate no jobs and would produce no services.

He said he also held concerns as to how extensive the rollout would be and who would have to use the cashless card.

But Mr Pitt said the card would be introduced with the guidance of community leaders as to which groups would be issued with the card.

"We're focusing on the young unemployed cohort, firstly to address ice and alcohol addiction issues and secondly to give them the motivation to take work where it's available."