The Federal Government will continue preparations for a further rollout of a cashless welfare card, despite threats from Labor and the Greens to block the measure in the Senate.
Government legislation authorising new trials for the card in Western Australia's Goldfields and Queensland's Bundaberg was backed by the Senate Community Affairs Committee yesterday.
But in separate dissenting reports, Labor and the Greens indicated they would oppose any further rollout of the card, which quarantines 80 per cent of an individual's welfare payments, and prevents gambling or the purchase of alcohol.
Both parties criticised the level of consultation at the proposed trial sites, as well as the reliability of the Government's ongoing reviews.
It leaves the future of the rollout reliant on the Senate crossbench, where the ongoing citizenship saga has left future numbers and make-up uncertain.
Government confident of crossbench support
Despite the potential roadblock, Liberal backbencher Rick Wilson, who represents the Goldfields and has advocated for the trial, said the Government would proceed with the planned 2018 rollout.
"[Human Services Minister Alan Tudge] has assured me that under the original legislation, there were three trial sites," Mr Wilson said.
"The Goldfields will be the third trial site to be rolled out … unfortunately Bundaberg may miss out if the legislation isn't passed."
Initial trials began in 2016 in Ceduna, South Australia and the East Kimberley in WA.
While a third trial site is budgeted for, a location is not, meaning Labor and the Greens could still move to disallow the trial when the Senate sits again next year.
"We're working very hard with the crossbenchers to ensure that is not enacted," Mr Wilson said.
Greens Senator and committee chair Rachel Siewert said there was not enough evidence to support a further rollout.
"We have deep concerns about the bill, we have deep concerns about the cashless welfare card," Senator Siewert said.
"It's a top-down, punitive approach that hasn't been demonstrated to work."
Disability pensioners fear card's potential impact
For Kalgoorlie-Boulder man John Browner and his son Andrew, the prospect of the card's rollout has them considering leaving town.
Andrew, 25, is on the Autism spectrum and has Tourette's syndrome, and receives the disability pension as a result.
"I'm in between jobs right now. I'm having trouble getting my graphic design into a proper business," he said.
"I've actually been saving to go back to school next year and get some more skills going."
Andrew said the looming restrictions on his access to cash would severely affect his life.
"I won't be able to pay board. I will only be allowed to shop at places that allow the cashless welfare card. I won't be able to buy things online or overseas," he said.
"I don't drink. I don't use drugs. Why am I being tossed into this?"
Mr Browner, a former police officer who has lived in the mining town for 18 years, said he was looking at moving out of the Goldfields before Andrew was placed on the card.
"It's quite criminal," Mr Browner said.
"My main concern is the destruction of his self-esteem, putting him and other disabled people to one side, saying they're not capable of looking after their money.
"The Government says the reason behind this is alcohol and drug abuse, and my son and most disabled people do not do that."
Supporters say trial remains an important step
But support for the card remains high among Goldfields community leaders, who maintain the trial will bring positive outcomes.
Coolgardie Shire councillor and Aboriginal woman Betty Logan personally urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to introduce the card when he visited the region in September.
She said opponents of the trial needed to suggest alternative solutions to what she saw as a growing emergency.
"Right now, the children I see are living with no hope; that's the future here in Coolgardie," Cr Logan said.
"If people believe this is controlling them, what else do they have to offer? If this doesn't work, then at least we would have tried something."
Exemptions will be put in place, state MP says
Kalgoorlie state MP Kyran O'Donnell said he was deeply disappointed by the threat to block the trial.
"There's a lot of people in this town … they've never had the education to manage money," Mr O'Donnell said.
He said exemptions would protect people who could demonstrate the ability to manage their own money.
"People can go before a community group — it will be a community group — and say 'I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not a gambler'," Mr O'Donnell said.
"We couldn't just pick a single group and say 'You were the only ones'."