Pokies machine.
Pokies machine.

Welfare ATMs for cashless card users will be in pubs, clubs

THE relentless controversy that has surrounded the cashless card has reached new heights, with Indue revealing almost 20 Queensland ATMs allowing cardholders to check their balance for free are inside pubs and clubs.

Since the first of the four Cashless Debit Card trials was rolled out two years ago, the government's stance has been that the income management initiative would test whether decreasing the amount of cash available in a community would reduce the overall harm caused by alcohol, gambling and drugs.

But two years on, that hard and fast line has become a hazy blur, with some arguing the ironic location of the ATMs countered the Federal Government's logic.

West Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the plan to place some 20 cashless welfare ATMs inside pubs or clubs selling alcohol and offering gaming sent a mixed message.

"The government says the Indue card ... is about addiction and gambling. So they're accusing people of having these addictions but then saying it's okay to go inside to check your balance," she told the NewsMail.

On Tuesday Senator Siewert visited Bundaberg pubs and clubs blocked or partially excluded from accepting the cashless debit card - three of which (Grand Hotel Childers, Metro Hotel Bundy and Elliott Head Bowls Club) are on Indue's list detailing the location of ATMs suitable for cashless card holders to check their balances without charge.

"One of the ATMs was right next to the business's gambling room," she said.

"It seems nonsensical to say 'While were trying to stop you gambling and drinking alcohol on income support, we want you to go in there to check your balance for free'.

"People shouldn't be able to access their balance on machines that are located in pubs where alcohol is on sale and near gaming rooms."

The Cashless Debit Card can't be used to withdraw cash, for gambling or buying alcohol. It quarantines 80 per cent of a person's welfare payments to the card, while the leftover 20 is put into their bank accounts.

A spokesman for the Department of Social Services said free cashless card balance checks were available at more than 3000 ATMs in Australia.

"The fact that some of these happen to be located in a licensed venue should not preclude people from the option of checking their balance," he said.

Senator Siewert met with welfare recipients while in Bundaberg on Tuesday.

There to answer their questions and address concerns, she said the people she met were efficient and effective in their money managing skills.

"They're quite anxious about having their cash restricted," Ms Siewert said.

Senator Siewert travelled to Hervey Bay yesterday, where she spent the day consulting with people about the card.