15 March 2021

SUBJECTS: Cashless Debit Card rollout to the NT from Wednesday 17 March; Services Australia Data Breach; March 4 Justice.


KATIE WOOLF, HOST: Now, apparently, Services Australia sent an email on Friday notifying businesses which accept the basics card that the rollout of that cashless debit card was due to begin on March 17. So in just a couple of days, but apparently, basically the email then was not sort of, you know, not BCC'd. And what it meant is that the email addresses of more than 600 Territorians who work in those businesses went out. Now, Services Australia spokeswoman has confirmed human error had led to the email addresses being visible. But joining us on the line to talk more about this is Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy. Good morning to you, Senator. 

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good morning, Katie. Good morning to your listeners. 

WOOLF: Talk us through the situation. What exactly happened from your perspective? 

MCCARTHY: Yeah, well, it's certainly a disastrous start to a programme that we had hoped the federal government would give us a whole lot more confidence on. What this means, Katie, just for your listeners, is that in the Northern Territory, the cashless debit card is being introduced voluntarily. We were certainly opposed to the compulsory roll out of it. Yeah, and those businesses that already have the basics card and there's over 600 of them were sent an email late on Friday. And that email was explaining how the cashless debit card would start this Wednesday. And the concern, of course, and I'd be interested to know if any of those businesses speak with you, the concern, of course, was that when the department sent those emails of over 600, they had basically put all the emails on there. So it was a breach of privacy. 

WOOLF: Goodness me. So more than 600 of those Territorians, their email addresses went out. Have any of them been in contact with you so far, Malarndirri. And what have they said? 

MCCARTHY: Look, I haven't had direct contact at the moment. I'm in Canberra, so I will be in touch with my Darwin office to see if any of those businesses or even any of the participants on the basics card have been in touch, Katie. But what I can tell you is that this doesn't bode well for confidence. I've been very concerned, as you and your listeners know, about the forced rolling out of the cashless debit card on the Territory. And we fought very hard in the last sittings of last year to stop that compulsory rollout, which we were able to do that. What's occurring now is a voluntary rollout and that voluntary rollout is providing no information. I'm hearing anecdotally from basic card recipients that they're not getting any information on this and it's a real concern. 

WOOLF: It is a real concern. And, you know, I also think it's a real concern, obviously, that we've got this data breach. Has the government said thus far as to, you know, exactly what's caused that and if they're going to be able to sort of ensure that it doesn't happen again? 

MCCARTHY: Well, that's a really good question. Next week, we have Senate Estimates here in Canberra. And I will certainly be putting those very questions, Katie, to the department. It's not good enough that there's been a data breach and it's not good enough if there's not been any information provided to people in the Territory. We have over 23,000 Territorians who are on the basics card and they will need to know what the cashless debit card means. And there are other Territorians who could very well be on the cashless debit card before the end of the year. 

WOOLF: Now Senator, I do want to ask you just quickly, I know that you are in Canberra, as you've mentioned, and we know that there is a mass rally which has been organised today at Parliament House in Canberra, and it's called a March for Justice. I'm not sure what the feeling is at Parliament House today. Are you able to sort of let us know if there's, if there are a lot of women around and what we're anticipating? 

MCCARTHY: Sure, Katie. We certainly are seeing the colour black everywhere. People, both men and women, you know, different whether they're members of parliament or senators or staff are wearing some form of black on their clothing, which I think is a really strong indication of the rally cry that people wear black to the marches today. And I certainly wish those in the territory who are going to the marches in Darwin and Alice Springs and anywhere else that might be occurring: This is about Australian women saying enough is enough, that we want people at all levels of the political spectrum and all political parties to recognise that the behaviour we've seen in recent months has just got to stop. And I think today is going to be an important day for our country. 

WOOLF: And I know that there had been an offer by the prime minister of a private meeting with one of those organisers, with those organisers. That's been rejected. They're calling on the prime minister to actually go out on the lawns and meet with all of the women out there. 

MCCARTHY: Yes, that's correct. It's what I'm hearing as well, that there is a real call for leadership here and above politics, a sense that you've got to have the leaders of the highest point, and that's the prime minister, the minister for women and other Coalition members being able to meet with the women out there on the front of the forecourt. This this is far deeper than people realise. It's sure, it's here in Parliament House that it's actually about those women in particular who are survivors of assault and abuse of all sorts of kinds in our country and other women who just say certain behaviour has to stop. So I think this is a deeper message for our country that Australian women have come together of all political persuasion, shapes and sizes, religion. And they're asking the federal leaders here, and that's everyone, not just the Coalition government, but it's all politicians, too, to really stand strong and firm against it and respect women in this country. 

WOOLF: Senator, are you going to be joining those women today? 

MCCARTHY: Absolutely. I'll be walking out with a lot of my colleagues and we will head out at about quarter to 12 Canberra time to walk out the front of parliament and join the march and, you know, give our support to the men and women who are coming here. I mean, this isn't just a women's issue. This is our country's issue. And I commend all of the people who are taking to the streets today. 

WOOLF: Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, it's always good to speak with you. I really appreciate your time this morning. 

MCCARTHY: Thanks, Katie. 

WOOLF: Thank you.