Catholic Social Services Australia has told a Senate committee that plans to continue and extend the cashless debit card system are “stigmatising” and would disproportionately affect Indigenous Australians.
The national peak body for dozens of Catholic social service agencies recently made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs on the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020.
CSSA noted that it had previously expressed its opposition to the compulsory cashless debit card approach in 2017 and 2018 submissions, and said the latest submission again outlines the negative consequences of such policies.
The submission challenged the bill’s assertion that the legislation doesn’t adversely affect people according to race, religion or ethnicity, saying one-third of people in the current trial are Indigenous – 10 times the proportion of Indigenous Australians in the population.
The submission provided feedback from Catholic social service agencies that have seen the impact of the current system.
While acknowledging that income management strategies can protect against practices such as “humbugging”, the submission argues that the compulsory nature of the Government’s legislation is unfair and discriminatory.
CSSA said rather than a policy response that “seeks to restrict and control the behaviour of individuals”, the Government should consider the evaluation undertaken so far and “develop a policy framework that is both enabling and addresses the systemic and structural causes of social issues and challenges in our communities”.