Liberal MP Bridget Archer abstains from voting on repeal of cashless debit card welfare scheme

Liberal rebel Bridget Archer abstained from voting with the Coalition against the repeal of the cashless debit card.

The MP for Bass was absent from the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning during the adoption by the Albanian government of a bill aimed at abolishing the tool for managing the income of social recipients.

It passed 86-56, with the Coalition and Independent MP Rebekha Sharkie voting against the change.

The cashless debit card program was designed to quarantine up to 80% of social benefits and prevent them from being withdrawn in cash or used to pay for gambling or alcohol.

More than 17,000 welfare recipients are on the map at test sites in the Northern Territory, East Kimberley, Ceduna, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, Cape York and Goldfields areas .

Ms Archer broke ranks in 2020 to speak out against her own government after it expanded the scheme to operate in some areas until the end of this year.

The moderate Tasmanian MP said on Tuesday night that her stance had not changed, explaining her decision to abstain from voting on the Labor Bill.

“I simply see the debit card program as a punitive measure passed on the presumption that all welfare recipients in the trial sites are unable to manage their finances and need government assistance,” she told the upper house of parliament.

Ms Archer argued that ‘forced government control’ over people’s finances was not the answer to some of the many systemic problems that exist in communities across Australia.

However, Ms Archer said she had significant reservations about Labor’s proposed transitions for people moving away from the map.

“This is where I fail to support this legislation,” she said.

“Despite the cashless debit card’s failure to achieve the desired results, removing the card without proper support will not solve the very problem it attempts to solve.”

Ms Archer made headlines last year when she crossed the floor in a bid to ensure protection for transgender children during the debate on the Morrison government’s controversial Religious Discrimination Bill.

During this year’s election campaign, the Labor Party pledged to abolish the cashless debit card scheme, which drew heavy criticism from welfare advocates and some service groups social.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said she expects participants to be able to opt out of the scheme in September, after Labor legislation is expected to pass the Senate.

The Morrison government’s cashless debit card legislation will expire on December 31 – a deadline for participants to be transferred to other support schemes.

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