10 December 2020

MIX 104.9 360


SUBJECTS: Cashless Debit Card

KATIE WOOLF, HOST: The Senator for the Northern Territory joins me on the line right now. Good morning Senator.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Good morning Katie and good morning to all you listeners. Great to be here.

WOOLF: Busy day. Busy day for you guys.

MCCARTHY: Yeah, well, given that we finished at about 1:00 a.m. this morning and didn't get to sleep till about 3:00 a.m. and no, I wasn't partying in Canberra. It was just the debate in the Senate that went for hours. We're all pretty, pretty, pretty pumped, I think, to get through today. And then hopefully it's going to be our last Senate day for the year.

WOOLF: Well it sounds as though it was a busy night last night. We were expecting, we weren’t really sure I guess what was going to happen with the Cashless Debit Card. As I understand it, Rex Patrick did vote, he voted with you after that trip here to the Northern Territory.

MCCARTHY: That's right, Katie, and I just want to thank Territorians, especially those who talked to Senator Patrick and also to Senator Lambie. Both of those Senators stayed with me, with Labor and voted against the cashless debit card being compulsory right across the Northern Territory and those for other jurisdictions or for other trial sites. So I'm just you know, it was it was a great outcome in that respect, Katie.

WOOLF: What happened in the end, Senator? Because as I understand, it was voted against, but then another Senator had a meeting with Anne Ruston, the Minister responsible for the legislation. There was something happen behind the scenes and then that Senator abstained from voting and so now it's a trial period again?

MCCARTHY: That's right. So really, what it is, is that the Government couldn't get the Bill that it wanted through. The Senate did reject the Government's cashless debit card legislation. So what the Government did was bring in a last minute amendment. And that amendment was really to keep the status quo. And that is those four trial sites to continue with their trial sites for another two years and to also make the Northern Territory or not make it, but to invite the Northern Territory to choose to be on the cashless debit card.

WOOLF: And so who will make that decision as to whether we choose to be on the cashless debit card or not?

MCCARTHY: Well, that will really come down to those individuals who are on the Basics Card, and this was really a last minute move by the minister. It really did show in desperation, Katie. The Government clearly wanted to keep the cashless debit card alive. They were not going to do with the fact that Senator Patrick and Senator Lambie were voting against it. They sneaked in a last minute amendment and talked to one of the other Senators who decided even though they voted against it in the lower house, decided to abstain here in the Senate so that the government could pass it.

WOOLF: So Malarndirri, what does it mean for those people that are on the Basics Card at the moment and what will it mean for Territorians?

MCCARTHY: Well, at the moment, that's still unclear. For the people on the Basics Card, they'll obviously continue on the Basics Card. It's really now a case of what the government is going to do. And these were questions I asked at committee stage last night, Katie. One of the things I've certainly looked into and Labor's looked into is that it's actually illegal to send a credit card or debit card to a person if they haven't requested it. So I think the minister has to go back and do some more work to actually work out the legalities of that, because they can't just send it in the mail. And the other questions we had was in a lot of our communities where people are on Basics Card, there's no letterboxes at their homes. You know, I know this sounds really simple, but that's actually going to cause legal issues for the distribution of these cards. And the Minister couldn't answer any of those questions, clearly, because they brought in this last minute deal.

WOOLF: Well it sounds like there is still a way to go, but at this stage for anybody out there who is listening right now who is on the Basics Card, what would you say to them in terms of, if they’re thinking to themselves, well mine's going to change, what's going to happen to me? What would you say to them?

MCCARTHY: Look, I would certainly say to those people who are on the Basics Card that your situation won't change in the immediate future, but at some point, no doubt the, either Centrelink or the Department, no doubt, they will be contacted. But I guess they're questions for the Minister now, Katie, as to how she how she's going to handle this. It is really very messy. And it is unfortunate that that we didn't just, you know, say no to the card and that was it. But, you know, deals are made and people backflip. And that's what happened last night or this morning at 1:00 a.m.

WOOLF: Long night. Well we will wait and hear. And we will certainly try and keep an ear out on exactly what's going on but we have heard from people who found it really hard, especially around Christmas time, trying to buy presents and stuff, it's what we've sort of heard on our own line.

MCCARTHY: Yes, and, you know, it's, this is what we raised. There were some incredibly emotional speeches, you know, certainly from the Greens, from Senator Lambie herself. You know, even Senator Patrick, you know, and Labor members, that this is about people and their lives and their livelihoods and how they try and look after their families and how they're trying to rise above disadvantage. And you can't tar everyone with the same brush here. And we really did try hard to get rid of this card. I think the outcome that we have achieved is certainly, you know, a little bit better than it having got through. But it was disappointing that one of these Centre Alliance Senators just didn't turn up and give a reason as to why they would do that.

WOOLF: Well Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy, we are going to have to leave it there. We always appreciate your time, thank you.

MCCARTHY: No worries, Katie. See ya.