Transcript: Today Show, Channel 9 interview with Karl Stefanovic

15 March 2016

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Cashless welfare card trial in Ceduna
E&OE

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Cashless welfare cards will today be issued in South Australia in the hope they will help in the fight against alcohol abuse. If the trial works, the cards could then be rolled out across other states.

For more, Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge joins us now from Canberra.

Alan, good morning to you.

MINISTER TUDGE:

Good morning Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

How does it work?

MINISTER TUDGE:

Well, it's a very simple concept. Instead of placing all welfare payments on an individual's ordinary banking account which they can access as cash, we will be placing 80 per cent into an account that is only accessible via this Visa debit card.

Now, this card works like any other Visa debit card. It will work anywhere, you can purchase anything, but it simply won't work at the bottle shops, it won't work at the gambling houses and you won't be able to take cash from it.

Consequently, of course, you cannot purchase illicit substances with it.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Been tried elsewhere and worked?

MINISTER TUDGE:

No it hasn't. This is a novel approach and it has been co-designed with community leaders on the ground.

The overall objective is to reduce the very significant welfare fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse which unfortunately is prevalent in many communities across Australia.

Now, alongside this card we will be investing significant additional services as well. So the card operates to reduce the cash available for those substances. On the other hand we have services in place to help people get off their addictions.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I suppose, to play devil's advocate, there are ways around these kind of things. People could purchase goods for exchange for alcohol?

MINISTER TUDGE:

Inevitably some people will try to get around the system but because all welfare recipients will be on the card, a lot of the cash will be taken out of the community so there will be less ability to do that type of trading.

In addition if somebody does that, inevitably they will be paying a penalty because they will make a purchase for $100 and only sell it for $50.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Is Centrelink a good idea? So obviously controversial though, especially for those who want the freedom to be able buy what they choose?

MINISTER TUDGE:

That's right. And inevitably some people will be against it.

My argument to those people is that if you are a responsible individual and you are not a big drinker, you are not a big gambler or a drug taker, then really the only impact upon you is that instead of reaching into your pocket to pull out cash, you will have to reach into your pocket, swipe the card, put in your pin number and off you'll go.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

How long will you give the trial before you start rolling it out elsewhere, if it's successful?

MINISTER TUDGE:

The trial is for one year and we will have a full evaluation process at the end of that.

I think we will get some good results even after a month or two and following that we will be able to make some very early judgements as what we might do subsequent to that.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Hard to argue with Alan.

MINISTER TUDGE:

Well that's what we think. We hope it works, we hope it does have that effect of reducing some of the violence and some of the harm which unfortunately occurs when people drink excessively and which is currently paid for by the taxpayer.

[ENDS]