Sentient broken clock Jacqui Lambie has once again become a rare voice of common sense in parliament by vowing to block the government’s plan to force people on welfare to use cashless debit cards, joining Labor and the Greens who’ve been rallying against the changes.
The government is trying to pass a bill which would give cashless debit cards to people on welfare instead of cash.
But the cards have been slammed as “cruel and demeaning” because they freeze 80% of the person’s assets so they can’t spend money on things like alcohol, drugs and gambling.
“The card’s a stick. You’re not giving them a carrot. You’re just hitting them. I didn’t sign up for that,” Lambie said in a statement released on Wednesday.
One way or another, the Cashless Debit Card's going to get voted on this week. When that happens, I'll be opposing it.
Here's why — pic.twitter.com/Yr0yVx1kDa
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) December 9, 2020
Lambie said that while the idea of a cashless welfare card isn’t terrible in theory, the way the government’s implemented it during a years-long trial was pretty crap.
“I’ve seen the promise, the potential of this policy,” Lambie said.
“I’ve visited all the trial sites [in rural WA, SA and QLD]. I’ve spoken with people for and against the policy.
“I’ve got my hands dirty with this policy and I’ve tried to make it a success.”
Heaps of people who themselves are part of the trial said they don’t support the program, too.
Lambie, whose own son previously struggled with an ice addiction, reckons dictating what people on welfare can and can’t spend their money on isn’t actually a solution to drug problems.
“By all means, make it hard for a drug addict to buy drugs,” she said.
“But for some, they’re on drugs, or drunk, and they’re unemployed, unemployable and hopeless. It’s not the drugs that make them feel hopeless. It’s their hopelessness that pushes them to drugs.”
Lambie instead wants a six-month wind-down of the cashless debit card scheme so that people already on it don’t get an unwelcome shock.
She also wants better rehab and work training programs so people can address their root of their problems.
She claims that the government’s current plan of either forcing everyone onto the card or letting the current trial lapse (if the bill doesn’t pass) shows that they don’t care enough about it to even back it properly. But that could have serious consequences for the people who’re affected by the program.
So far, Labor and the Greens also oppose the bill.
“Management of income is racist and colonial nonsense all over again and it is demeaning to us,” Aboriginal Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said in parliament on Wednesday.
That’s because introducing cashless welfare cards would disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, despite the program being largely created by non-Indigenous people.
I know @Senator_Patrick thinks I’m joking that we’ll vote him out if he votes for the Cashless Welfare Card, but I’m deadly serious: we’ll send ppl to stand outside Centrelink in his electorate, handing out fliers why Centrelink recipients shouldn’t vote for him. #RejectCDCRex
— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) December 9, 2020
Lambie was one of the two crossbench senators upon whom the fate of the bill hung.
Now it’s up to Independent Senator Rex Patrick, who used a cashless debit card for four weeks to see what it’s like but hasn’t publicly made a decision just yet. (Update: Patrick announced late on Wednesday night that he’ll vote against the bill).
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Back in September Lambie also vocally opposed the government’s cuts to uni, while one other crossbench senator kept quiet.
So it’s yet another case of Jacqui Lambie incidentally being woke, or something. She’s not perfect – let’s not forget about the time was convinced ISIS would send Ebola-infected suicide bombers to Australia – but hey, at least she’s on the right side of history this time around.