REGIONAL FEARS: Maryborough Chamber of Commerce president Lance Stone has raised concerns about a potential welfare migration before the Cashless Debit Card (pictured) is rolled out across the Hinkler region.
REGIONAL FEARS: Maryborough Chamber of Commerce president Lance Stone has raised concerns about a potential welfare migration before the Cashless Debit Card (pictured) is rolled out across the Hinkler region. Amanda Coop

Fears welfare families will swamp Maryborough

MARYBOROUGH Chamber of Commerce President Lance Stone has voiced his concern over the Cashless Debit Card, saying he fears people will move to the Heritage City simply to avoid being placed on the welfare card.

Mr Stone said he was already hearing feedback from people through his various roles that welfare recipients from the Hinkler electorate were already approaching community housing looking for new accommodation ahead of the introduction of the card.

He said he did not feel it would be helpful to the region if there was a concentration of welfare-dependant people moving to Maryborough.

"I'd rather invite people here to fill jobs than because they want to get away from the card," he said.

"That's a negative reason people are moving here, not a positive reason."

Similar fears have been raised in Hinkler's north that unemployed Bundaberg people could cross the river and shift to the Flynn electorate, which incorporates Gin Gin and Moore Park Beach.

The Federal Government is yet to announce a strategy to combat welfare migration before the card is rolled out.

If Hinkler residents who are eligible for the card move before its introduction, they will not be placed on the program.

Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders said he was unsure if such an exodus would occur, but reiterated he was opposed to what he called the "Turnbull Government's privatisation of benefits."

"All I know is the card is wrong, and will impact all Australians and particularly pensioners," he said. "I'm against outsourcing benefits to a private company."

Fraser Coast mayor George Seymour said he also couldn't see any potential migration happening, but said the card would have a negative impact on the lives of people already disadvantaged in the community.

It follows ongoing backlash to the card since it was first proposed last year.

The Chronicle submitted a series of questions to the Department of Social Services, including asking whether leaving Hervey Bay and Bundaberg now would allow welfare recipients in the cities to avoid being placed on the card.

The Chronicle also asked if the department was concerned there would be a mass exodus of people to other areas if the card was introduced.

The department did not respond to the questions, with a spokeswoman simply stating at legislation to establish a trial of the Cashless Debit Card would seen be introduced into the Federal Parliament.

"The Cashless Debit Card is making a real difference in the communities where it is in operation," she said. "The aim of the card is to break the cycle of welfare dependency by helping people manage their income and stabilise their lives."



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