Senator Rachel Siewert.
Senator Rachel Siewert. Contributed

Greens: People on cashless card 'spat on, labelled druggies'

A GREENS senator has declared the controversial welfare card is fuelling bullying and assault in some trial sites across regional Australia.

Rachel Siewert told parliament people on the card had outlined how they feel demonised and stigmatised in the community.

"People have been spat on, called druggies and their children bullied at school because their parents are on the card," she said on Wednesday.

The card holds 80 per cent of welfare payments so money can't be spent on alcohol, gambling, cash withdrawals and some gift cards.

The trial was introduced in the Hinkler electorate, incorporating Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, in January.

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt fought hard to bring the card to the region to tackle the intergenerational high levels of welfare dependency.

It is already underway in Ceduna in SA, the East Kimberley and Goldfields region in WA.

Senator Siewert said the trial was targeting indigenous people.

"This is a punitive approach that unfairly discriminates, particularly against first nations communities, and does not work despite the government's rhetoric," she said.

The Senate is set to pass legislation which will make the Department of Social Services secretary the decision-maker for exit applications, rather than unelected community bodies that now control the process.

Labor wants to change the bill to force the government to produce evidence the scheme is working and make it voluntary from January next year unless community support can be demonstrated.

The Greens want the card scrapped, but will try to amend the legislation to give the department secretary more leeway to exempt people from the trial.

New Liberal senator Matt O'Sullivan, who lobbied the Turnbull government to implement the card, wants the scheme to allow for individual goods to be banned.

"It's a critical tool to help communities dealing with the devastating effects of alcohol, gambling and drug abuse," he told parliament in his first speech on Tuesday.

"I'd like to see a wider rollout into other vulnerable communities across Australia."

-AAP



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