Bundaberg / Hervey Bay Region Announced as Fourth Cashless Debit Card Site

Bundaberg / Hervey Bay Region Announced as Fourth Cashless Debit Card Site

The electorate of Hinkler in Queensland’s Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region is set to become the fourth location of the rollout of the mandatory cashless debit card.

Earlier in the year we learnt that Bundaberg had become the dole capital of Australia.  It had taken the title of the postcode with the highest number of people on Newstart in Australia, with reports that locals weren’t willing to take up the jobs available on local farms. 

Last week by the announcement by Human Services Minister Alan Tudge means that 6,700 people aged 35 and under on Newstart or parenting payments will have 80% of their income placed on the card, in an attempt to reduce spending on gambling, drugs and alcohol. 

Minister Tudge pointed out that the region has the second highest youth unemployment rate in Queensland at 23.6%, with many experiencing “intergenerational welfare dependence”.  Often entry level jobs are not taken up by locals, while thousands of backpackers do entry level work in the region. 

The card will be rolled out from early 2018, and will be accompanied by an extra $1m for support services in the region.  If a person on the card moves out of the region, the card will stay with them. 

The announcement was welcomed by the Mayor of Bundaberg, but others have pointed out that there isn’t enough jobs to go around and the card will just make people’s lives more inconvenient. QCOSS called for the card to be voluntary. 

It follows the recent announcement of WA’s Goldfields region as the third site, in addition to East Kimberley and Ceduna in SA, and the release of the controversial final evaluation report of the card, which we covered here.    Criticisms have included that the evaluation did not provide conclusive evidence of the card's effectiveness, it does not address underlying issues such as alcoholism and violence, and people can circumvent the card to obtain more cash.

To find out more about the cashless debit card, click here for an overview from DSS.