THURSDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2017
THURSDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Cashless Debit Card senate inquiry, community consultation
SENATOR MCCARTHY: So far the evidence we’re hearing is clearly about the gaps in the consultation period. Everyone whose come before us has heard about the card but it certainly sounds to me there hasn’t been the consultation we’re told there has been, that’s especially concerning to me, when people are going to be forced on a situation they’re clearly not wanting to be on. We’ve heard anecdotally the stories of individuals and certainly this is not the way to go if there hasn’t been the consultation.
JOURNALIST: There’s been a lot of he said, she said, there’s several inquiries, one saying it’s been a huge success, one saying it’s been a huge failure. What are your thoughts on those records that have been taken apparently?
SENATOR LINES: I think there’s very serious concerns about the report that came out of Kun and Ceduna, there are a number of ways to read that report and if you look at it 78% of people said there’d been little to no change and some said they’d been worse off. If you ask people who are taking illegal drugs if their drug habits have reduced when they’re also being asked to give their names and identify themselves, I mean come on, who’s going to say ‘yes my illegal drug taking has increased or remained the same’? People were given inducements to participate in the survey and in fact there was a 48% drop-off in people who refused to participate in the survey the second time. So there are a lot of questions around the survey. But let’s not rely on the survey, people in Kun are saying the card isn’t working, police are reporting increased levels of violence, NGOs in town are reporting that kids are going hungry. You can’t just put a card in place without anything else and expect conditions to change. Particularly when First Nations people weren’t asked about the card, weren’t consulted about what they thought were the solutions. We get told by First Nations people all the time “yes there are problems, and we know what the solutions are”. Well let’s start to walk the talk and put in place solutions that First Nations people say will work.
SENATOR MCCARTHY: I think there was some important evidence heard about alcohol and the concern that people have in relation to alcohol across the board. There were witnesses who said questions about the pubs, about the sale of alcohol, had not even been considered in this process. And I think these are legitimate questions we in the senate need to be asking.
JOURNALIST: We heard this morning from members of shires of all the northern goldfields, we had them speaking on behalf of respected aboriginal elders up there. I know those guys, apart from Ian Tucker, were mostly not Aboriginal. These are people who have grown up in their community, Ian Tucker he’s a very well respected elder, Janice Scott, Bruce Smith, all respected elders up there. Are you saying these people are wrong when they want to try this out up there?
SENATOR MCCARTHY: Nathan can I just say there is no disrespect here at all in terms of the evidence people are giving, I think it is always important to consider it’s being heard with respect. But our job in Senate is to look at this across Australia and to ask for the evidence base to make the laws for this country that govern the people of this country in a fair and manageable way with outcomes that give hope to people. So our questions today are based on “where is the evidence here that you have consulted and discussed legitimately with the people who will be affected by this card”. We have not received this evidence from any of the witnesses here, other than the fact that they’ve said anecdotally and their own personal experience. We don’t diminish that in any way but we can’t stand in Senate and agree to a piece of legislation without having read solid information about effective consultation.
SENATOR LINES: I think the other thing that struck me this morning is that the federal government is responsible for providing welfare and safety net services and it seems to have completely abrogated that responsibility and gone out and asked councils and councillors who are elected for their point of view. Now the interesting thing we heard from the people from Menzies is they don’t have a problem in their town either with First Nations or non-First Nations people and yet they’re being dragged into this cashless welfare card. Now this is clearly nonsense but it’s very clear that the Federal Government is asking the least informed in our community, local government doesn’t provide these services, ignoring the individual recipients, who will be affected by this card, and coming up with some quick solution.
JOURNALIST: So in a town like Leonora where there’s been a string of youth suicides for a town that has very minimal population, two years ago Rick Wilson flew Minister Tudge out here, they floated the idea, it’s nearly two years later, I mean what are you proposing they do, they want action on the ground, what do you say to them when they say we’ve been talking, we want something done?
SENATOR LINES: They haven’t been listening, they haven’t been listening. We have evidence from the Aboriginal Health Services, they have solutions, the people standing with us, they have solutions. Let’s talk and listen to them, not fly bureaucrats and ministers in from Canberra and pretend they can come up with solutions. They can’t. We are not saying there aren’t issues. The best people to resolve those issues are the people involved.
JOURNALIST: What’s the solution?
SENATOR LINES: The solution is to talk to the people standing with us, to talk to the health services and land councils.
JOURNALIST: So more consultations?
SENATOR LINES: No, first nations people tell us everyday that where lie the problems lie the solutions. That’s where it starts. Why are there no problems in Menzies? Let’s look at why Menzies is managing to prevent all these social issues in their population, that seemed to me to be the jewel in the crown and yet no-one’s got any information about what’s happening there. It’s not about me saying this should happen or that should happen. It’s about First Nations people saying this is what we want to see. It’s about empowerment and it’s about solutions being locally based not flown in from Canberra.
JOURNALIST I visit these communities fairly regularly and observations I would make is that they would say this as outside Senators flying in who have no idea about what’s happening on the ground and they’re proposing thatwe continue to talk about this for who knows how much longer. What would you say to people who are frustrated and want something done?
SENATOR LINES: I heard from local people this morning that they want more consultation; I heard the frustration from local councillors. But they are not the people who are going to have the card imposed upon them. I’ve spoken to people in Kununurra, it’s not working up there and we’ve had one of the key proponents of the card up there come out and say it’s not working, and it’s not working because the services aren’t there. And it’s not working because the services aren’t there, and we’ve heard that today from Aboriginal controlled health services that there aren’t enough services, that fundamental issues like mental health are not being addressed.
BRONWYN: (Kalgoorlie-Boulder Aboriginal Residents’ Group member): They’re going to put the ration depot back in place, you’re going to repeat history all over again. No thank you we don’t want the welfare card, because it will really affect K-B. The crime rate will go up, they will go out and steal, break into anybody’s’ homes so that they can have a shot. Deal with your drugs first, deal with your alcohol problem first then come back and address the grassroots people that is affected by this card. Not one voice, come and listen to the majority of people who live here.
MANDY CLINCH: (K-B ARG Member): My experience is I lived in Kalgoorlie all my life, I went to Ceduna to do some family business, while I was over there I had to go on the Indue card. I was only there a little while but they made me go on it. I got on it, stayed there for a while then came back to Kalgoorlie, tried to use my card and I couldn’t use it. Tried to take my kids to swimming places and it got rejected. Tried to find places around here but none would take it. All your money’s gone on to that card, how are you going to feed your kids? If you don’t have a car, you have to walk around Kalgoorlie with a tribe of kids in the heat walking shop to shop trying to find a shop who will accept that card. How do you feel for that mother and children walking in the heat?
JOURNALIST: Are you back in Kal full-time now?
MANDY CLINCH: Yep
JOURNALIST: And are you still on the card?
MANDY CLINCH: No, I had the biggest row with them. I told them you tell the government to go get on that card and see how you feel. Trying to take your kids to some places and they don’t take the card, you’re devastating your children, you’re putting them in stress.
JOURNALIST: So it’s taking you out of the cash economy, disadvantaging you out of that situatio
MANDY CLINCH: Yep, took me out of everything. I didn’t want to go anywhere, I stopped going places. I eventually managed to get off it, took me ages to get through to Centrelink. I know what people are going through, you have to look at all the shop windows to see if they take the Basics card. We don’t have big shops that open on Sundays, IGAs don’t take the card. Only small delis take it and you look how expensive it is to buy a meal from those small shops for your family out of that card. It is so frustrating, when you got a mob of kids and no car.
BRIAN CHAMPION (K-B ARG Member): As both Senators have stated the consultation process was not carried out properly in the goldfields and that was where it faulted. We are divided as a community as a result of that. Because only certain information got out to certain individuals. As I said from a personal point of view, even in my household we are divided, my wife and myself are divided on the principles of this card. And I hope that the senate do make the right decision in the end.
RAYLENE PEEL: (K-B ARG Member): It needs to be a trial. We know it’s already implemented, but a trial with an end period. Not like in Ceduna where there’s no end, no come-back.