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New University Study Sparks Renewed Debate over Cashless Cards

Debates surrounding quarantining the income of job seekers have resurfaced in light of a report on the aftermath of removing the Cashless Debit Card.

The controversy surrounding the Cashless Debit Card has reignited in Australia following a review on its elimination.

The contentious measure was initially introduced to address spending on alcohol in remote communities and eventually expanded to trials in larger regions.

Initially proposed by Labor, the measure was later adopted by the Coalition in trial runs in specific parts of Australia.

During the trials, individuals receiving Newstart had approximately 80% of their income placed on the cashless card, restricting its use for activities such as gambling or purchasing alcohol.

Opponents expressed frustration as it meant that certain individuals receiving benefits only had access to 20% of their income as cash, while others faced difficulties paying certain bills and experiencing occasional card failures that left them out of pocket or forced them to travel long distances to shop.

Labor discontinued the card in 2022, deeming it ineffective in reducing alcohol consumption or gambling.

A recent government-commissioned University of Adelaide study on the card’s elimination focused on four trial sites—Ceduna, East Kimberley, the Goldfields, and Hinkler.

The university’s report noted that some communities observed a resurgence of antisocial behaviors following the removal of the cashless card.

Concerns were raised about parents prioritizing spending on alcohol over food, leading to child hunger.

Following the report, Australian Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine called for the reinstatement of the card and proposed its national rollout for all Australian job seekers.

The group No Cashless Debit Card Australia, which advocated for the removal of the trials, expressed deep concerns about efforts to reintroduce the card.

The group’s founder, Kathryn Wilkes, stated that the cashless card negatively impacted ordinary individuals and discussions about its reinstatement should be halted.

As a vocal opponent of the card, she shared instances of individuals going to extreme lengths, such as having to travel 160km to shop if card readers malfunctioned.

Wilkes highlighted the loss of dignity experienced by cardholders who had to disclose their spending to the government and private companies managing the cashless cards.

“You’re not going to address substance addiction by enforcing a card system,” Wilkes stated in a video posted on the campaign’s social media platform.

A separate study by the University of Adelaide conducted recently revealed that individuals shopping with cards rather than cash tended to spend more on purchases.

The discontinuation of the cashless card faced strong criticism from Hinkler MP Keith Pitt, a key proponent of the card in his constituency.

While acknowledging that the card did not solve all societal issues, the MP emphasized the positive changes it brought in reducing illicit spending.

“It was a step in the right direction and deserves support,” he remarked in a statement.

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