Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (12:34): I rise to speak in continuation on the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022. As I was saying in my speech last night, Labor’s new amendments to extend the CDC, the cashless debit card, represent a very embarrassing backflip by the Albanese Labor government. But, more than that, they reflect the fact that Labor has not been listening to the women, particularly the women in the communities that have been served so well by this card.
I want to correct a statement made by Senator Chisholm in his contribution last night, when he quite improperly criticised the member for Hinkler, Mr Pitt. The senator said:
They didn’t consult with anyone in Hinkler before they did it; they just put everyone on it and said, ‘This is the way it will be.’ Then you add to that a local member, Keith Pitt, the member for Hinkler, who wouldn’t meet with constituents who raised issues about this card, who had problems with this card. So there was no consultation before they did it …
I want to strongly refute those comments by Senator Chisolm and put on the record that there was very extensive consultation in Hinkler. Between May 2017 and December 2017, the Department of Social Services conducted over 188 meetings in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay with federal government agencies, community members, local government representatives and service providers. This included five meetings with Commonwealth government agencies, 19 meetings with community members, three meetings with community reference groups, two large community meetings with the public, 25 meetings with local government representatives, four meetings with peak bodies and 55 meetings with service providers. The Hinkler electorate office contacted 32,000 constituents to get an indication of their views before the trial was even put forward; 32,000 individuals were sent direct mail, about 500 people were phone polled, and an additional 5½ thousand were sent emails.
The feedback that the member for Hinkler, Mr Pitt, received showed that 75 per cent were supportive. Throughout the consultation process it was highlighted by numerous groups, schools and frontline service providers that children in the Hinkler electorate were missing out on the basic necessities of life and needed to be the focus. In May 2018, the local newspaper, the NewsMail, and the Fraser Coast Chronicle engaged ReachTEL to do a poll. The ReachTEL poll showed that the overwhelming majority of people in the Hinkler electorate were not against the card. Just 27.8 per cent of those polled were opposed. So I really want to strongly put on the record and refute the pretty nasty comments made by Senator Chisolm, which were clearly and demonstrably not true. The member for Hinkler, Mr Pitt, has done an exceptional job in consulting with his community, and I’ve just outlined some of that work.
As I conclude my remarks, I just want to again say how sickened I am by the Labor Party’s attempts to shut down the cashless debit card. We have now seen, of course, this dramatic backflip, where the CDC will now continue in Cape York in the trial sites, and those people in the Northern Territory who have voluntarily transitioned from the BasicsCard onto the CDC will be able to remain on the cashless debit card. As I said last night, I am also sickened because this government, the Albanese Labor government, has not listened to those people, those Australians, that this card has given so many positive benefits to.
I condemn this government for its attempts to shut down the card. As I’ve mentioned and as we’ve spoken about in this debate, these amendments made it clear that this government got this completely wrong. Not only did it botch its election commitment; it’s demonstrated that it has not listened in relation to the overwhelming benefits of this card and the enormous amount of good work that it is doing for so many vulnerable Australians. I condemn the Albanese Labor government for trying to shut down the card, and I hope and trust that common sense will prevail and that this card, which is doing so much good in so many communities, will continue.