Geraldton is firming as the first trial site for the Federal Government’s cashless welfare card where the majority of welfare recipients are non-indigenous.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge toldThe West Australian the Government hoped to announce the third trial location within weeks.
It is understood the Turnbull Government wants to test how the cashless debit card works in largely non-Aboriginal centres.
About 70 per cent of welfare recipients in Geraldton are non-indigenous.
Mr Tudge said most of the complaints about the year-long Ceduna trial in South Australia, which began on Tuesday, came from the town’s non-indigenous population, even though 70 per cent of the town’s welfare recipients are indigenous.
All working-age people on income support in the trial areas have 80 per cent of their welfare paid into a debit card and 20 per cent goes into their normal bank account.
The cards operate like an ordinary debit card and allow the purchase of cigarettes but do not work at liquor stores or gambling outlets. The second trial in the east Kimberley is from late next month while the Geraldton trial, if it goes ahead, will begin in the second half of this year.
Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn acknowledged that some locals were opposed to the city being a trial site but said the community as a whole had shown “very strong support”.
He said Geraldton was demographically representative of bigger cities and could be a good test for whether the cards were suitable for Perth.
Ice and domestic violence were big issues in WA and he hoped Geraldton could “lead by example”.
WA Greens senator Rachel Siewert, who opposes compulsory income management, said she recently visited Geraldton and a number of health and community service organisations there had concerns about the cards.
Selection of Geraldton as a trial site, she said, would suggest the Government anticipated the debit cards would be rolled out more broadly.
“The Government is desperate to get a community that isn’t a largely Aboriginal community so they can say this isn’t about Aboriginal people, even though quite clearly it partly is,” Senator Siewert said.