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Welfare card should be opt in: Labor MP

Labor is opposing a nationwide rollout of cashless debit cards to welfare recipients, but might consider an opt-in approach.

But a government MP says it’s shameful to say it’s okay for majority indigenous communities and not others.

Labor MP Julie Owens admits there are many people who would benefit from income management programs, but not across the board.

“I would argue that perhaps it might be more sensible for a government to look at an opt-in system,” she said after suggesting a community by community approach.

The opposition backs continued trials in Ceduna and East Kimberley regions, which followed consultation with elders and community leaders.

But they won’t support a proposed further rollout to the West Australian Goldfields region and to Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, in Queensland.

Liberal MP Ben Morton said Labor’s dissent went against what communities in proposed trial locations wanted, and also sent a message that the cards were fine for majority indigenous communities but not others.

In the current trial locations 78 per cent of recipients are indigenous, but the new trial locations would take the indigenous participation rate to 33 per cent.

“By refusing an extended rollout into the Goldfields and Hinkler (electorate) they are precisely saying that this card is okay for those majority indigenous communities, but not okay for other non-indigenous communities and that’s shameful on their part,” he said.

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