The former government's plans were clear: despite no compelling evidence, they were going to force all social security recipients onto this cruel card, including pensioners. The former Prime Minister called it the universal platform. A former minister said it would be subject to a nationwide expansion. Then, when sprung, they tried to deny their own words. They forget that the television actually recorded what they said.
They introduced legislation to force pensioners onto the card but then pretended they hadn't. They would have taken 80 per cent of a social security recipient's payment and forced it on this card, meaning people couldn't go and buy fresh food at the market; couldn't pay cash for second-hand goods; couldn't buy a cheap meal down at the RSL if they sold alcohol there; and couldn't give cash to their grandkids for their birthday.
The government and a private company, the Liberal Party and the National Party thought, should control what people spend their own money on. The only people who benefited were a private company that ran this card. A hundred and seventy million dollars was wasted on this by the Liberals and Nationals.
The government's principles for income management are clear: (1) it should be voluntary; (2) it should not be privatised; (3) it should be supported by evidence, not prejudice or bigotry or assertions or good ideas; and (4) it should be subject to ongoing evaluation. The government's bill delivers on these principles.
Principle No. 1 is that it should be voluntary. Individuals or communities that want income management should have it. We will liberate the trial sites, and there are consultations underway which will return self-determination to Aboriginal communities, a welcome contrast to the government's former scheme. As a Senate report and others found, it was tantamount to being a racist scheme because it disproportionately impacted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including in the trial sites.
Second, it should be non-privatised. Citizens have a right to deal with public servants when asking for permission on how to spend their own money if they're on income management. They should not have to beg a private company for permission on how to spend their cash. Labor does not support privatised welfare, and the Liberals and Nationals do. That's what it boils down to.
Third, it should be supported by evidence. I think almost the worst and most dishonest aspect was the repeated untruths of the former government and former ministers that this scheme somehow helped people. There was simply no credible evidence over years. I can understand and accept to some degree that this was a trial. I can understand it. The former government put forward this idea and said it would be a trial, it would be evaluated and it would be subject to evidence. That's what they said. That was the legislation that was passed, including with the support, initially, of Labor, the then opposition.
But after years the Auditor-General found in two separate reports—not once but twice the Auditor-General looked at this scheme—that there was simply no proper evidentiary basis.
The former government committed multiple times to do a proper independent evaluation of the scheme, but they did not do so, and they broke their own promise. They said this would be a trial, it would be temporary and they'd evaluate it, and then they brought legislation into the parliament to make the trial sites permanent and allow them to be expanded.
We heard in question time last week the Leader of the Opposition misquoting the University of Adelaide report and confusing correlation with causation. There was no evidence that the card decreased drug and alcohol use. It's assertion. So the former government relied on stereotypes and prejudice—stereotypes that people on social security can't spend their own money.
If you ask a pensioner or anyone on social security, they know where every cent of their money goes. It is prejudice—as one member admitted to me quietly, 'Well, it's just red meat to our base, isn't it?'—and racist stereotypes.
The truth is that this card did more harm than good. The final thing I'd say, from talking to pensioners around the country, is that, if you get to an older age, you know someone who's had a drug and alcohol problem, and the truth is that they always find a way around this card. It did more harm than good, and I'm glad it's being abolished by this government.