Federal Member for Fairfax

Media release

Senator for Western Australia Zhenya ‘Dio’ Wang has welcomed Senators’ support for a trial debit card that financially empowers welfare recipients after meeting with trial participants in Canberra yesterday.

Representatives of the Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation travelled for two days to discuss the benefits of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015 with crossbench Senators, and reassured Senator Wang of the community’s support for the initiative.

“They told us they decided they needed to get representatives to Canberra after seeing misinformation in the media,” Senator Wang said.

Ceduna is the first region in Australia to sign up for the trial, under which 80 per cent of a welfare recipient’s payment is credited to a cashless card that cannot be spent on alcohol or gambling.

The Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation told Senator Wang that the debit card actually empowered welfare recipients who have never before held a debit card which – just like a credit card – can also be used for transactions such as booking flights or accommodation.

“Despite the claims of some of the people in this place, the community has been very engaged in consultations with the Government for this trial and they have committed to ongoing updates in the evaluation process,” he said.

“They see this card as a mechanism to break the cycle of welfare dependency issues associated with substance abuse that have been decades in the making – a potential circuit-breaker that will help stop violence and put food on the table for children – and have shown great leadership in their level of engagement.”

Senator Wang, who was today among 38 Senators to vote in support of the Bill against 10 votes not in favour, also welcomed the Government’s pledge of extra financial support to assist any Western Australian communities that choose to participate as the trial is rolled out.