The Australian Human Rights Commission has warned that the proposed Cashless Debit Card Bill is not compatible with Australia’s international human rights obligations.
In a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019, the Commission also raises concerns regarding the lack of robust evidence provided for the effectiveness of cashless debit card trials to date.
The Commission calls for cashless debit cards to be made voluntary and recommends a community-driven approach to income management.
“Limiting people’s ability to access their welfare payments in cash does not address the reasons for drug and alcohol misuse, poverty, trauma, and lack of education,” said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar.
“We need a multi-dimensional approach in collaboration with the people affected to tackle these issues. Income management measures like these should only ever be a last resort.”
The Commission’s submission also highlights that the proposed measures will disproportionately impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people because most of the areas targeted for the expansion of the trial have high Indigenous populations.
“The imposition of the cashless debit card diminishes the equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for particular geographic groups where the proportion of Indigenous residents is significantly above the national average,” said Commissioner June Oscar.
“I am very concerned about the lack of consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in this process.”
The Commission has made submissions on previous related Bills to continue and expand the use of cashless debit cards; the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 and the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018.
In those submissions the Commission raised concerns in relation to the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination. These concerns are equally applicable to the current Bill.
The Commission’s 2018 and 2017 submissions on previous Cashless Debit Card Bills are also available online on the Commission’s website.