Cashless Welfare Cards Slammed As 'Humiliating And Expensive' As Roll-Out Planned
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged a national roll-out of the cashless debit card but a peak welfare body has described it as "unnecessary, expensive, stigmatising and impractical".
Morrison told the Nine newspapers results of trials of the program - which aims to prevent welfare payments being spent on alcohol, drugs and gambling - were "commending itself for wider application".
While he indicated this would be potentially aimed at an under-30s age group, he also said he would be prepared to be patient to ensure communities embraced the program before a nationwide expansion.
Even so, ACOSS Director of Policy Jacqueline Phillips said the cashless debit card was unnecessary, expensive, stigmatising and impractical, making it harder for people to buy second-hand goods.
"It costs thousands per person to administer and many people feel humiliated when they have to pay with the card, especially in small towns," she said in comments obtained by AAP.
"This can compound the sense of shame many people feel about being unemployed when they are doing all they can to find paid work in today's competitive job market with one job available for every eight people looking."
She said this was a misguided attempt to distract from the urgent need to increase Newstart, which is widely supported and would provide the economy with much-needed stimulus.
The prime minister also defended his plans to have another crack at trialling drug testing for new job seekers to "help people get on their feet again".
Legislation will be put forward this week as parliament resumes after the long winter break.
But Labor has labelled the reintroduction of the bill as "mean and nasty".
The government has repeatedly resisted calls to increase Newstart, saying the priority is to get people off welfare and into work.
Labor's shadow spokeswoman for families and social services Linda Burney said the number of people over 55 who received Newstart had increased by over 45 per cent over a five-year period under the coalition.
"Older Australians experience particular difficulty in re-entering the workforce due to structural barriers and age discrimination," she said in a statement.
Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke said the prime minister wanted to humiliate those people even further through drug testing.
"Walking into the office, having to urinate into a cup, having pieces of their hair plucked out, having to spit in to a jar, and all of this for what?" Burke said.
"(Morrison) thinks it's a clever political battle with Labor. It won't create a job, It humiliates people. It's not a sensible policy."