10 December 2020


SUBJECTS: Cashless Debit Card; two seats guaranteed for the NT

STEWART BRASH, HOST: Senator Malarndirri McCarthy has been campaigning for the amendments to be scrapped. Didn't quite happen, but she's on the line. Malarndirri McCarthy. Good morning.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning, Stewart, and good morning to your listeners.

BRASH: So tell us, what these, what do the amendments which went through mean for Territorians on welfare?

MCCARTHY: Well, look, it means now that the Government didn't get what it wanted, that the Senate did reject what the Government wanted to do. And that was a real slap for the Government. They have been completely irresponsible in being unable to bring evidence-based research into the Senate. And Senator Patrick explained that was really why he did vote against it in the end and as did Jacqui Lambie. So I was certainly pleased with that.

BRASH: So what about, can I just ask, what happened with Stirling Griff, though, because we understood that the Centre Alliance were firm against the amendments. And then they, they well, they didn't flip. They certainly didn't vote to stop the passage of the bill because they abstained.

MCCARTHY: That's right.

BRASH: So was that a little bit of a surprise to people like yourself?

MCCARTHY: It was deeply disappointing. I'm actually a nearby neighbour to Senator Stirling Griff. And when I knew that conversations were not going on between certainly my office and his, I sensed that some deal was obviously underway and knew that it would be revealed on the floor of the Senate, which it was in the sense that he didn't turn up. He left the building. And I think it was quite disgraceful, really.

BRASH: So he won't be getting the invite to your Chrissy drinks?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, politics is something that we've all got to, we've had to deal with different issues each day. And at some point, I'm sure Stirling Griff and myself will have a talk about it. But, you know, it was disappointing, especially when Rebekha Sharkie MP, had voted against the legislation in the House. And, you know, we knew that the Government would also move. I mean, this was a very desperate attempt by the government to not lose. They were definitely on the verge of losing. And so they pulled in a last minute amendment to basically keep the status quo for those four trial sites. So it's not really a win for them. It's definitely a setback. But I do feel enormously proud of the Northern Territory that by having Senator Rex Patrick and Senator Lambie come to the Territory, they obviously did listen, and I appreciated that.

BRASH: What will it mean when we say it could be optional? People might opt in to the cashless debit card, the Indue card? What will that look like and how will it even work?

MCCARTHY: Yeah good question, Stewart. I mean, we're in committee stage last night trying to ask all of these questions. I've certainly got concerns just around the fact that, you know, there's considerations in terms of the Australian Securities Commission and the sending of those credit cards or debit cards if people haven't asked for them. So there's so many questions still outstanding here. And what the minister did say was that those people who are on the basics card could go to the cashless debit card if they so wish. So, you know, we still need to understand well what does that mean and how does that work?

BRASH: Do they have to make an active decision to ask for the card? Is that the key thing? And do we know if that's the case, though? Because, you know, sometimes people get send cards in the mail and they go, oh, this is nice, I'll use this. I mean, surely that won't happen.

MCCARTHY: Well, it's actually illegal. Under Section 12DL of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act you cannot send another person a credit card or debit card. Except if they request, in certain circumstances, and that was why I raised that yesterday in my questioning of the minister. What kind of work has been done around this? Are we, are you creating another Robodebt 2 where people can actually sue the Government in the way that they're being not only forced onto the cashless debit card, but receiving a card that they didn't ask for?

BRASH: Could this be seen as the thin end of the wedge by making it optional? And then at some point in the future, I mean, two years from now, they'll have to go back to the trial sites and consider whether to make them permanent or scrap it altogether. Do you think they're going to try and give people an opportunity to go, oh, I quite like this or not. So is it maybe a Trojan horse?

MCCARTHY: Look, there is no doubt that the federal government wants to roll this card right out across Australia. And the people of the Northern Territory are really, you know, the guinea pigs in that sense of such a large population of people, over 22,000 Stew. And so that's, you know, was quite critical to their decision with this legislation. So I'm pleased that we were able to hamper that, to get them to go back to the drawing board and actually have a good look at why they're trying to impose this card when their own evidence has not been brought towards forward to the Senate.

BRASH: If someone does choose to go down and use the Indue, the cashless debit card, will it be a 50-50 split? We keep on getting different bits of information on this. Do we know what, if you were rolled over, if you say I'm on 50-50 with the Basics, I want to get the Indue card, will it obviously have to be 50-50 rather than the 80-20 is in other jurisdictions?

MCCARTHY: That's right. Well, that that question came up during committee stage when Senator Lambie actually asked the Minister if you're going to have it at 50-50 in the Northern Territory, but you have it 80-20 in the other jurisdictions, it's actually, that is also discriminatory. And so the minister was unable to really respond to that question. And so these things are still outstanding that, yes, maybe for now that it might be 50-50. But there is such a big question mark over how long, who determines when it changes. And the minister actually does have the power to make it 100 per cent quarantine.

BRASH: Yeah. Do we know when and if people may be able to get hold of a CDC, a cashless debit card in the Territory?

MCCARTHY: Well these are things we will follow through obviously now to the Minister's office and to the Department and just find out how do they plan to do this?

BRASH: And has Senator Ruston as yet seen and looked at the Adelaide University evaluation report?

MCCARTHY: Look, the Senator hasn't responded, in our view, well enough to actually explain that report. She told me certainly in Senate Estimates that she hadn't seen it and certainly did not raise it during the debate last night, which went till, you know, nearly 1 a.m. in the morning. So I would take that she hasn't seen it, Stew.

BRASH: Will you be calling for that to be released? Because at the moment---  

MCCARTHY: Oh absolutely.

BRASH: We're still ignorant as to what this evaluation report has found, except anecdotal suggestions that it probably didn't find the evidence the government wants.

MCCARTHY: Well, absolutely. And, you know, we could only come to that conclusion as Senators during the debate that, you know, you've you've gone ahead for, to ask for a $2.5 million evaluation of these trial sites. We can only take it that that review must be pretty bad if you're not even using that to assist you in this legislation.

BRASH: Ok a few more answers to be found on this one.

MCCARTHY: Lots more questions.

BRASH: Yeah a lot more answers and questions are required in this space. Now last night, and this is the legislation to guarantee the Northern Territory its second seat that was passed finally, was it last night as well?

MCCARTHY: Yes. Yes, it was a beautiful thing. It was kind of like this yeah, crazy night. But you just again, I'm I do feel really proud of the Territory. And, yes, that has passed and will go to the Governor-General for ascent. 

BRASH: I assume that was supported by everyone.

MCCARTHY: Yeah, there was it was pretty unanimous. I mean, I'm sure Luke Gosling and Warren Snowdon can probably give you more detail. I was a little bit more preoccupied with what was going on in the Senate, but they were pretty pleased and we're just very, very thankful.

BRASH: But that's not a permanent two seats. That's for how long do we actually have that guarantee for?

MCCARTHY: Well, I guess the word they're using here is foreseeable future, Stew. And I imagine that there will be a fight again sometime in the future. I mean, if we had pursued our Private Senator's Bill, we would have guaranteed it in legislation. So I expect at some point we're going to have to keep an eye on that one. And I'll certainly do that.

BRASH: Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, thank you.

MCCARTHY: No worries. Thank you.