'Twiggy' Forrest rolls out controversial cashless welfare card ad campaign

 abc.net.au  4/21/2017 11:34:21 PM   political reporter Dan Conifer

Posted April 22, 2017 09:34:21

Mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest's charity, the Minderoo Foundation, has launched an advertising blitz pushing for Centrelink's income management to be expanded.

Key points:

  • Andrew Forrest is a long-time advocate of the cashless welfare card
  • The ads are urging people to sign an online petition in support of expanding the program
  • Cashless debit card trial has been in place for two years in Ceduna and East Kimberley

The Cashless Debit Card quarantines 80 per cent of welfare payments and cannot pay for liquor, gambling or be used to withdraw cash.

The Federal Government is considering launching the measure in more communities, with one Liberal MP calling for 10 more trial sites in next month's budget.

The Fortescue Metals Group boss is a long-time advocate of the controversial measure.

Mr Forrest's Minderoo Foundation screened prime-time television advertisements over Easter and more will run this weekend.

"In the East Kimberley, alcohol and drugs are devastating our communities," Aboriginal elder Ian Trust said in the ad.

"So we're trialling more responsible welfare with the Cashless Debit Card.

"And it's working — with one card we have reduced drugs and alcohol abuse."

The ads urge people to sign an online petition in support of expanding the program, especially for welfare recipients under 18.

In a report for the Abbott government, the Fortescue Metals Group boss called for 100 per cent welfare quarantining Australia-wide, except for aged and veterans' pensions.

The Coalition then established two trial sites in Ceduna in South Australia and Western Australia's East Kimberley region — two areas with large Aboriginal populations.

The Minderoo website said Mr Forrest and wife Nicola had donated more than $245 million to the foundation and other philanthropic causes.

Mixed reports on card's effectiveness

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge earlier this month told the ABC an expansion was being contemplated.

"We just want to further consult with different regions in terms of their appetite for change, in terms of their appetite for having it introduced," he said.

"And then we'll consult obviously internally and assess whether or not we should be progressing further with it."

A Government-funded report last month found a quarter of drinkers on the card reported consuming alcohol less often and about a third of gamblers had curbed the habit.

But the report showed one in two participants said their life was worse because of the card.

Federal Liberal MP Rick Wilson represents a third of Western Australia's land mass and wants income management in 10 more communities, including the city of Kalgoorlie.

But Indigenous representative body National Congress of Australia's First Peoples said the concept had not been proven.

Topics: welfare, community-and-society, government-and-politics, australia, kalgoorlie-6430, ceduna-5690

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