MP responds to Labor’s promise to ditch cashless card
FEDERAL Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt has returned fire after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced plans to scrap the Cashless Debit Card in Hinkler should his party wins government.
The controversial trial of the welfare card begins here next week and is expected to be a key election issue.
Standing by the card's roll-out, Mr Pitt said yesterday the focus was on "real change" to the electorate's social issues and he was not concerned with "playing politics" to safeguard his seat.
Battle lines were drawn in Wide Bay when Mr Shorten visited the region on Monday as part of his Queensland Jobs Not Cuts bus tour.
Here to promise jobs for locals and better funding for mental health, Mr Shorten said that if he was elected prime minister it was his "intention to roll the card back".
"It mightn't be possible to unscramble all parts of the egg if they've (the current Federal Government) got some costs on IT or some costs on Canberra bureaucrats to help administer the system," he said.
"We can't necessarily save all the money they've spent but it is our intention to roll it back."
Mr Pitt said Labor had a history of jumping the fence on the CDC and Mr Shorten's promise was "all talk and no action".
"The Labor Party supported the roll-out of the Cashless Debit Card in the original trial sites, they then changed their minds and in fact in the parliament they did not even vote against it," he said.
"It is not a silver bullet but it is one tool in the toolbox to try and address some very difficult social challenges.
"The card very clearly is aimed at reducing the effects of the purchase of large amounts of alcohol, gambling products and reducing the amount of money available to purchase illicit substances.
"No one is saying you can't have a beer or have a punt but what we are saying is that you cannot use the majority of the welfare which is provided by the Australian taxpayer for those purposes.
"I make no apologies for that. It is a tough but necessary solution."
Contracts have been issued for the CDC trial which gives welfare recipients 20 per cent of their entitlements in cash and the rest on a debit card that cannot be used to buy alcohol or to gamble.
Mr Pitt said scrapping the card would require the cancelling of contracts including paying out whatever penalty was required.
Mr Shorten admitted if Labor was elected he wouldn't be able to save the money that might have already been spent on the cashless card.
But he said he would work with the community to roll it back and come up with better solutions that "actually help people that are down on their luck at the bottom of the cycle and lift them back up and get them back into work".
"This government (the current Federal Government) is proposing to spend $13.5 million to save some money, it doesn't stack up," he said.
"They've prematurely rushed it in terms of not waiting to see a full review of how it would work.
"I think, and the experts tell me, that there are much better ways to use important taxpayer money to help people engage and get back into work and deal with the challenges of addiction than this particular system.''
Mr Pitt said the experience at other trial sites was that there had been no significant change in terms of an increase in crime rate.
"I think if people go into public office with only a single concern of keeping their seat then they are in the wrong place," he said.
"This is necessary, it is tough and it is strongly supported by our community. I am for making change. It is a trial and a trial only and in two years we will know the result.
"There are a whole range of things which will influence how people will vote on election day. I have said many times I will have a performance review by 105,000 people and they will determine who their elected member is."