A cashless welfare card being used by welfare recipients in the small town of Wyndham, 100km north of Kununurra, WA. The cards are being trialled in parts of Queensland. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
A cashless welfare card being used by welfare recipients in the small town of Wyndham, 100km north of Kununurra, WA. The cards are being trialled in parts of Queensland. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

Cashless welfare card debate taken to the classroom

THE Queensland Teachers' Union has been running a campaign in central Queensland against the proposed cashless debit card trial for welfare recipients, despite "1000 children a day" in the region turning up to school unfed.

The QTU has been ramping up its political activism, outside its usual parameters, in recent months, earlier this year voting to put Eureka Stockade flags in schools to support the militant CFMEU.

But the union says it was difficult to put ''hard lines'' around what its business was, and criticised the government for using the school breakfast programs to push for its welfare trial.

The expansion of the cashless debit card trial, including at Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, will come before the Senate this week for debate.

But QTU representatives in the two cities, waving union-branded flags, have repeatedly protested, arguing it was "punitive and disempowering".

Hinkler MP Keith Pitt questioned why the QTU was getting involved in the political debate.

He said the trial would help the 1000 children a day who principals had told him were turning up to school each day unfed.

While breakfast programs have been set up to address these issues, Mr Pitt said the cashless welfare card trial could ensure money was spent on food and not on the poker machines.

"Where's the union's concerns for the children?" he said.

"They're seeking another delay on something that will make a real difference for children in our community."

QTU acting president Sam Pidgeon said teachers were angry that school breakfast programs, meant to be positive and inclusive, were being used to justify the trial in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.

"Just because a child is attending a breakfast club doesn't mean they're not getting breakfast at home," she said.

Ms Pidgeon said the union was involved in the cashless debit card debate because it involved children's welfare, but defended its broader political activity which has included refugee rights and marriage equality.

"There's a crossover. When we're fighting for our industrial rights, we're also fighting for better classrooms for kids to learn in," she said.

"It's really difficult to put hard lines around what should be the business of the teachers' union and probably any union for that matter."

It comes as LNP Senator Amanda Stoker used her maiden speech last week to criticise unions for becoming increasingly political, ahead of the interests of their members.

She called for "union monopolies" to be broken up and taxed.