New Commonwealth Bill for Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion

Thursday 31 May 2018 @ 11.07 a.m. | Legal Research

The Commonwealth Government has introduced the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 (Cth) (‘the Bill’) on 30 May 2018. The Bill proposes to expand cashless debit card arrangements to further trial sites and introduce provisions related to product level blocking for restricted products such as alcohol or gambling services.


In the Explanatory Memorandum of this Bill, it is stated that the background of this Bill is the Cashless Debit Card trial and its independent evaluation by ORIMA Research, published on 1 September 2017. The trial included results from the first two trial sites, Ceduna, in South Australia and the East Kimberley in Western Australia. The Bill is a follow-on from the Social Services Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Act 2018 (Cth). More information on the Bill of that Act can be read in TimeBase’s earlier article

Main Amendments

The main amendments to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) (‘the Act’) are as follows:

  • Insertion of Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area as designated trial areas;
  • Amendment of the definition of ‘trial participant’;
  • Amendment of the Act to insert a powers for the relevant Minister to make a legislative instrument to authorise a body as a community body in relation to the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay area;
  • Extension of the trial duration in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay until 30 June 2020;
  • Making of provisions relating to the determination of  whether a person is a trial participant.

The Bill additionally proposes to make amendments related to product level blocking to restrict purchases for alcohol or gambling services.

In his second reading speech, Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan stated that the proposed amendments would allow for more understanding of the efficacy of the cashless debit card system in a larger urban population:

‘Expansion of the cashless debit card under these criteria will allow the effectiveness of the program to be further tested and understood in the context of a larger urban population. It is also an opportunity to test the technology in a more diverse community. This area has a significantly different demographic than other sites currently operating.’

On the provisions related to product level blocking, Mr Tehan stated:

‘To support the cashless debit card trial, this bill will strengthen the provisions that enable merchants to block the sale of restricted goods to trial participants at the point of sale. Merchants in trial sites will more readily be able to service participants of the program, through the option to implement product level blocking solutions, automatically blocking transactions where a participant is attempting to purchase restricted goods with the card. In doing so, the bill also clarifies the restriction on 'cash-like' products, such as gift cards, vouchers, money orders, or digital currency, where these could be used to purchase alcohol and gambling products. These products are included as restricted goods, as has always been the intention of the program. Clarifying this provision to include 'cash-like' products will support product-level blocking amendments, and help prevent participants from circumventing the program and spending their welfare payments on alcohol, gambling and drugs.’

Media Release

In a media release, Mr Tehan stated:

'Intergenerational welfare dependence is ruining families, there are some young people who have never seen their parents, and even their grandparents, hold down a job," Mr Tehan said. "Doing nothing is not an option and I urge the Parliament to pass this legislation and help the people of Hinkler to help themselves.'

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt MP was quoted as stating the following in the media release:

"The Cashless Debit Card will tackle a problem that everyone in our community knows exists. This will be a targeted trial rolled out to people in our electorate that need help. It will not be rolled out to age pensioners."

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 (Cth), explanatory memorandum and second reading speech, as published on TimeBase LawOne.

Media Release:Cashless Debit Card legislation introduced (Ministers for the Department of Social Services, 30 May 2018.)

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