Contrary to media reports, Labor has not yet decided whether to support the government's Healthy Welfare Card plans. The Greens are expected to oppose the Healthy Welfare Card laws.
Singlemum.com.au can reveal that Labor's spokesperson for Social Services, Jenny Macklin, is denying reports in News Limited newspapers that Labor has already decided to vote for the laws.
Jenny's office told us today that Labor hasn't made a decision yet on the controversial laws which were introduced to parliament today, Wednesday 19 August.
Tony Abbott's Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Healthy Welfare Card project is Liberal MP Alan Tudge. Tudge said 10,000 working-age people will compulsorily placed on the 80 per cent cashless Centrelink Visa debit card in the first three trial communities.
The branded payment card will be linked to a Centrelink Healthy Welfare account and prevent recipients buying alcohol or making gambling related transactions. Account holders will get balance notifications to their phone when they make a purchase over $10 and will be able to manage their Healthy Welfare account via a mobile phone app.
Alan Tudge said all working age income support recipients in the trial communities will have their payments controlled and have be issued with a Centrelink Healthy Welfare Visa Card.
Aged pensioners and other people may volunteer to opt-in to get a card.
The laws introduced to parliament today allow for trials in three communities - Ceduna in South Australia, East Kimberley in Western Australia and another unnamed community.
The third community was to be Moree in NSW but local opposition has stopped the trial. A replacement community has not yet been announced. The Australian reported that the government is looking for a largely non-indigenous town or suburb.
Previously Alan Tudge has said that the Centrelink Healthy Welfare Visa Card will be rolled out to communities, suburbs and cities across Australia.
This new card is not just for addicts, alcoholics and people with budgeting problems. Alan Tudge has previously confirmed that all parents, unemployed people and other income recipients can expect to be income managed.
Alan Tudge said he has been working closely with the banks and that the card will look "as much as possible" like an ordinary bank-issued debit card that "most people carry in their pocket".
The laws need Labor's support to pass the senate and overcome resistance from The Greens.
Jenny Macklin's media officer told www.singlemum.com.au today that media reports that Labor was supporting the Healthy Welfare laws are not correct.
"Jenny is looking at the legislation that was tabled today and hasn't made any decision yet.
"Jenny wants to consult with community leaders in the trial sites, take a while to consult and work through it," said the media spokesperson.
Labor did support and extend the Howard Government's Basics Card income management project. The Basics Card works at selected retailers only and is not accepted by most merchants.
The new Centrelink Healthy Welfare Visa Card will be accepted by most shops and online.
Alan Tudge said: "Eighty per cent of payments will be placed on the card."
The rest will go to the recipient's ordinary existing bank account.
Alan Tudge denies that this system is income management.
"There will be complete freedom," said Alan Tudge "With the exception of two restricted products."
Yes, paying with a card will be an initial inconvenience for some people, said Alan Tudge, but he wants us to consider the potential upside of a transformed community where women are safer and there's more money for kids.
The Healthy Welfare Card now faces critical House of Representatives and Senate votes. There will be stiff opposition but Labor is expected to eventually support the laws.
In any case, everyone can agree with Alan Tudge that this is a radical new approach to welfare in Australia.
Business & Finance Journalist
Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines.
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