Welfare Debit Card Legislation Passes Senate

Release Date: 
14 October 2015
Media release

Today the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, passed the Senate.

This is a watershed moment in how we deliver welfare.

The Government was joined by the crossbenchers and the Labor Party in passing the legislation.

Passage of the legislation means that in up to three communities, 80 per cent of a person’s social security payments will be placed into a recipient's Welfare Debit Card account. The remaining 20 per cent cash will be placed into a recipient's existing bank account.

The Welfare Debit Card will be a silver Visa Debit Card. The card will work at every location, for the purchase of anything, but will be programmed not to work at liquor outlets and gambling stores. Further, because cash will not be available from the card, illicit substances will not be able to be purchased.

This will be one of the most innovative Visa cards on the market. It will be linked to people’s mobile phones. When a trial participants makes a purchase over $10 they will receive a text message informing them of their account balance. They’ll also receive a text when payments are dropped into their accounts and when their balance drops below a certain amount.

All working age income support recipients within a trial site 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 a trial 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.

The trial will be accompanied by additional investments in drug and alcohol and financial management support in each location, to assist people reduce or eliminate their dependence on alcohol, drugs or problem gambling.

The package already announced for Ceduna represents a full-scale assault on the alcohol, gambling and drug abuse in that community.

Every aspect of the trial has been co-designed with Ceduna community leaders.

The sole objective of the trial is to reduce the welfare-fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse that unfortunately occurs in some of our communities.

The Government believes this trial could have a dramatic impact on communities in terms of rates of violence and rates of assaults, particularly against women.

I thank the Senate for passing this important legislation.