The Government claims the card has reduced rates of drinking, gambling and drug use. Picture: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
The Government claims the card has reduced rates of drinking, gambling and drug use. Picture: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Push for widespread use of welfare card

EVERY Australian under 35 years on a parenting payment or the dole would be forced on to a cashless debit card under a Nationals' push that would dramatically extend welfare control.

The controversial proposal - to be voted on at a Federal National Council on Saturday - aims to stop drug and alcohol abuse among welfare recipients.

The plan is among a number of timely and contentious motions that relate to freedom of religion, coal, migration, perks for working seniors and mandated primary industry education in all schools.

A cashless debit card is already being used in a handful of communities, with the Turnbull Government pushing for a trial in the Queensland seat of Hinkler (Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region) for those aged under 36 years. In other communities there is no age limit.

The Hinkler blueprint is due to be introduced into the Senate next week but it is opposed by Labor, The Greens and social welfare groups.

About 80 per cent of welfare is quarantined and cannot be used to pay for drugs, alcohol or gambling.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive officer Cassandra Goldie - speaking about the policy being expanded in Hinkler - called on the Turnbull Government to dump the plan.

"The Government must not expand a policy that humiliates people and invades a person's basic privacy, without any credible evidence that such restriction is justified."

However, Social Services Minister Dan Tehan has previously said the card had shown positive results by reducing rates of drinking, gambling and drug use.

"Intergenerational welfare dependence is ruining families, there are some young people who have never seen their parents, and even their grandparents, hold down a job," Mr Tehan said recently.

The new motion, that would apply to every Australian on a handout, is being put forward by the Federal Young Nationals, and will likely be supported by some Federal Nationals MPs.

Nationals delegates at the conference will also debate:

* A push for a new "seniors employment scheme", which will not require companies to deduct tax or superannuation from post-retirement age employees. It means an employer would not have to deduct tax upfront from a pensioner, who would likely have to pay tax through a tax return at the end of a financial year;

* That the Government introduce two new visas that would allow migrants to work in regional areas where there are labour shortages;

* That the Government support building of high-energy, low-emissions coal-fired power stations; and

* That National Party parliamentarians ensure there are no "impediments to traditional Christian celebrations such as Christmas and Easter".