Community leaders of the Ceduna region in South Australia today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Government agreeing to be the first trial site of the Government's cashless debit card.
The Government has been working closely with local Ceduna leaders over the last few months listening to their concerns and jointly designing and agreeing a trial.
This 12 month trial will have the objective of reducing the welfare-fuelled alcohol and drug abuse in the community.
In 2013-14, presentations to the hospital emergency department due to alcohol or drug use exceeded 500 - more than one per day. The local sobering up facility had a staggering 4,667 admissions that same year from a regional population of 4,425.
Participants in the trial will receive a mainstream everyday debit card, which will be connected to the Visa, MasterCard or EFTPOS platform.
The card will be able to be used anywhere for the purchase of anything, except for alcohol and gambling products. Further, because cash will not be available from the card, illicit substances will not be able to be purchased.
Under the trial, 80 per cent of a person's social security payments will be placed into a recipient's debit card account. The remaining 20 per cent cash will be placed into a recipient's existing bank account.
All working age income support recipients within the Ceduna region will be part of the trial and receive the card. Aged pensioners and workers may volunteer to opt-in.
A local authority will be established in the region which will have the power, on application, to adjust the amount that is placed onto an individual's debit card. The individual would need to satisfy the authority that basic obligations are being met, such as regularly sending children to school.
To support the implementation of the trial, the Federal Government will work with the South Australian Government and local leadership group to provide a tailored package of additional assistance.
The package will aim to support individuals to tackle their dependence on drugs and alcohol and improve individual capabilities and opportunities.
I commend the Ceduna region community leaders (particularly the Ceduna Council and Community Heads Working Group representing Ceduna, Yalata, Oak Valley, Koonibba, and Scotdesco) for working constructively with government in designing this bold policy designed to improve the community safety for the region.
The Government will introduce legislation in the spring sittings to authorise a 12 month trial.