QTU President
Kevin Bates

QTU President's comment, 25 September 2017

QTU condemns cashless welfare

The 2017 QTU State Conference considered the impact of the federal government’s proposed introduction of cashless welfare cards in the Wide Bay after failed trails in Indigenous communities.

Conference determined that the QTU condemns:

  • The proposed introduction of the Indue cashless welfare card (and other forms) in the Bundaberg/Hervey Bay/Hinkler area and the potentially larger scale roll-out
  • The use of anecdotes and school children’s breakfast programs as evidence that children in their electorate are going hungry because their parents are spending their Centrelink support payments on drugs and alcohol

At a time when our community is burdened with unprecedented levels of inequality, the cashless welfare card represents an attempt to perpetuate the myth of welfare rorts while ignoring positive, supportive programs to address the causes of social disadvantage. As with so many current federal government policies, this is about addressing the symptoms not the causes.

The federal government’s own research, commissioned to evaluate the original use of the cashless welfare cards during the Northern Territory intervention and conducted just two years ago, found “no substantive evidence” of the $410 million program causing significant changes, including the key objectives of changing people’s behaviour and spending patterns. That same review found no evidence of improvement in financial and community wellbeing, especially for children.

Cashless welfare cards prevent full economic participation by a range of vulnerable people including Indigenous Australians and people with disabilities. Other research has established that the indiscriminate imposition of the cashless welfare card on all welfare recipients causes shame and embarrassment, with the card serving as a public label of inability to manage one’s own finances.

The cashless welfare card generates a massive additional cost for delivery of social welfare and creates the potential for the profit motive to be the primary driver of commercial operators administering basic government services. The exponential growth of profit-making industries in welfare, health and education is contrary to the philosophy of social services for the public good and erroneously founded on cost savings to government.

Many commentators have also pointed to the cashless welfare card initiative as another serious breach of Australia’s human rights obligations and of international law, particularly key components of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights are union business. The more than 44 000 teachers and principals of the QTU stand alongside those who oppose the introduction of this card.

Kevin Bates, QTU President
25 September 2017