Media Statement: Labor must come clean on its plans for income management

Labor must explain whether the party still supports income management after a series of confused interviews on the topic in recent days have created more questions than answers.

Comments from Anthony Albanese and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy suggest the Opposition wants to deny working age payment recipients in the NT the choice to move from BasicsCard to the Cashless Debit Card.

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Cashless Debit Card provides income management participants with choice and control when spending social security payments.

“The Cashless Debit Card looks and feels like any other bank card and is accepted at almost every shop with an EFTPOS machine, online and even overseas. It simply blocks the purchase of alcohol and gambling products and the withdrawal of cash,” Minister Ruston said.

“Why does Labor want to deny Territorians the choice? Would Labor end income management altogether?

“Labor politicians must to stop its fearmongering on the Cashless Debit Card and to come clean on their plans for income management and the BasicsCard.”

Labor’s claim: “The idea of a privatised organisation running the welfare system like this and doing it in a way in which they have an interest in its expansion, that's the thing.” Albanese 19 May 2021

Fact: The Government runs the welfare system, Indue simply provides the banking technology for the Cashless Debit Card as well as the BasicsCard. As part of the 2021-22 Budget we set aside funding to work toward having additional card issuers through major and community banking institutions.

Labor’s claim: “People in the Northern Territory is that we have the Basics Card and people are being obviously urged on to the Cashless Debit Card by the minister. And if they go on to the Cashless Debit Card, they will have up to 80 per cent quarantined, possibly 100 per cent under this current legislation.” McCarthy 24 May 2021

Fact: Income Management participants who are on the BasicsCard in the NT are able to volunteer to transition to the Cashless Debit Card and the rate remains the same as the BasicsCard. The remaining amount (typically 50 per cent) is deposited into the participant’s regular bank account.  No participants will have 80 per cent or higher.

Labor’s claim: “This expansion is all about ideology, rather than common sense. And for a political party that says it cares about individualism and of the rights of the individual, to seek to impose this on more and more people, just defies its own evidence.” Albanese 19 May 2021

Fact: Each of the four Cashless Debit Card sites were selected after those communities lobbied for the card. The Cashless Debit Card is accepted at about 1 million merchants across Australian compared with about 17,000 which accept the BasicsCard.

Labor’s claim: “The Federal Government's own report … has shown that it isn't working in regards to reducing violence, in regards to reducing gambling.” McCarthy 24 May 2021

Fact:  The University of Adelaide evaluation found people reported feeling safer since the introduction of the Cashless Debit Card. Evidence suggested that “the CDC has been helping to reduce gambling, with positive impacts especially in the context of family and broader social life”.

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