The troubled outback town of Tennant Creek should not be held "to ransom" by tying a proposed regional deal to the introduction of a cashless welfare card, Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy says.
- Talks underway over introducing cashless welfare card in Tennant Creek as part of regional deal
- Policy "not reaching the end goal" in addressing Indigenous disadvantage, NT Senator says
- Mayor, Aboriginal corporation support investigating trial in troubled outback town
During his first visit to the remote community prompted by claims of inaction over the rape of a two-year-old girl Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was "committed"to finalising a Barkly regional deal, aimed at increasing collaboration between local, territory and federal authorities.
Social Services Minister Dan Tehan also flagged that he would look into establishing the cashless welfare card in Tennant Creek as part of the arrangement.
Senator McCarthy said the policy was "not reaching the end goal" in addressing Indigenous disadvantage, and despite the use of the Basics Card across much of the Northern Territory, inter-generational poverty remained prevalent.
"People remain on welfare, people remain in societies where violence is at the forefront," she said.
"These policies are clearly not working and that's what we have to look at.
"I hope the Turnbull Government will not hold Tennant Creek to ransom by tying this regional deal to the community accepting the [model]."
Under the cashless welfare scheme,80 per cent of a person's Centrelink allowance is placed on the card, which can only be used for essential items.
'Community members are asking for it'
A report from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) found evidence about its effectiveness unreliable,conceding it was "difficult to conclude" whether there had been a reduction in social harm because of a "lack of robustness in data collection."
Senator McCarthy said the policy was "questionable", with no thorough evaluation of the current trials taking place.
"I think all people who may be interested in the cashless card need to be aware of the pros and cons," she said.
"There are serious flaws with this card."
However, Federal Country Liberals candidate for Lingiari Jacinta Price said the cashless debit card was a "good model" for Indigenous people, and some residents were eager to use the system.
She said it would be more effective than the current Basics Card and carry less social stigma, and cited cultural reasons for introducing quarantined income.
"It could be used online, and unlike the Basics Card, shops don't have to sign up for it in order for it to be used," she said.
"In the 'demand share' economy, you're expected to give to your family and not say 'no'.
"When there are members of your family that have problems with substance abuse, you're not supposed to say no to them."
Barkly Regional Council Mayor Steve Edgington and chair of Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation Linda Turner also backed investigating the proposal in Tennant Creek.
Labor has ruled out supporting cashless welfare card trials in WA's Goldfields or Bundaberg in Queensland, putting the viability of the program's expansion in jeopardy.
Source: ABC News Online, 24 July 2018