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Budget welfare crackdown as MORE Aussies are forced on to cashless Centrelink card that prevents spending on booze, gambling and smokes – while immigrants are banned from payments for FOUR YEARS
- 25,000 people on the cashless card barred from buying non-essential items
- Budget reveals a $30 million package to upskill people at the first four trial sites
- Trial sites are at regions in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland
- Migrants will not be able to access parental leave or family benefits for 4 years
Thousands of Australian welfare recipients will be forced onto the cashless Centrelink debit card under a huge expansion of the scheme in the federal Budget.
Immigrants will also be barred from accessing most kinds of welfare for four years after they are granted residency in Australia.
The cashless Centrelink cards cannot be used to buy items like alcohol, gambling and cigarettes, but only on necessities like groceries.
The cards have been trialled since 2016 in East Kimberley and Goldfields in Western Australia, Ceduna in South Australia, and the Bundaberg-Hervey Bay region of Queensland.
Under the controversial scheme, 80 per cent of welfare recipients’ Centrelink payment goes directly onto the card rather than into their bank account, preventing it being wasted on unnecessary spending.
Pictured: People queue to enter Centrelink at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, amid mass unemployment
Under the scheme, a further 25,000 people will not be allowed to buy alcohol with the cashless Centrelink card (stock image)
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg unveiled a plan in Tuesday’s Budget to make the scheme permanent in the four trial locations, while extending it to 25,000 people in the Northern Territory and Cape York.
The Budget included a $30million package to upskill people at the first four trial sites, including a jobs fund to boost employment opportunities.
Funding will also go towards improving drug and alcohol rehabilitation services in the cashless debit card sites.
Lawford Benning, executive chairman of indigenous organisation MG Corporation in the East Kimberley, said local leaders were blindsided by the decision to make the card permanent.
‘We all want to be equally consulted or have that opportunity to play a part in making our community safe… this got sprung upon us,’ he told the ABC.
‘I’ve learned now and I believe it is a punitive model that is enforced, I believe, on vulnerable people.’
But Ian Trust, executive chairman of Aboriginal services group Wunan Foundation, said the move was necessary to escape the ‘safety net’ of welfare into employment.
Pictured: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handing down the 20221-22 budget on Tuesday evening
Funding will also go towards improving drug and alcohol rehabilitation services in the cashless debit card sites. Pictured: The cashless debit card
He told the ABC that locals need more incentives to take up short-term work like fruit picking to earn their own money which they can spend however they choose, and transition from the welfare system.
Mr Frydenberg also announced new migrants who are granted residency from January 1, 2022, will be forced to wait four years to access family tax benefits, paid parental leave, and carers payments.
Under the current system, migrants can immediately access family tax benefit A, wait one year for family tax benefit B, and access paid parental and carers leave after two years.
The measure is projected to impact 13,200 people and about 45,000 families during the budget year, and will save about $460.2 million from 2022 until 2025.
Pictured: People queuing to get Centrelink benefits amid mass unemployment during the Covid-19 pandemic
People who are granted residency prior to January next year will be exempt from the changes.
Due to international travel restrictions, Australia will focus on granting residency to migrants already in the country, including partners and families.
A further $464.7million will be directed to increasing the capacity of offshore detention facilities, such as Christmas Island, to remove unlawful no-citizens from the country.
According to the Guardian, about $278.2million will be spent on upgrades across the network to boost its capacity from 1,000 people to 1,500 – the average number of people in detention.