Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited the Western Australian town of Kalgoorlie on Friday to announce the expansion of the mandatory welfare trial will begin there next year.
The card is compulsory for working-age welfare recipients and will affect approximately 3,000 people in the region.
It quarantines 80 per cent of welfare payments to the debit card so it can’t be spent on alcohol, drugs or gambling. The remaining 20 per cent can be used as cash.
“If you love somebody and they are spending all their money on booze and drugs, what are you going to do” Mr Turnbull asked after a meeting with community leaders in Kalgoorlie.
“You are going to try to stop it and get them to spend it on foods and clothes and necessities of life.”
An independent evaluation of the scheme in the towns of Ceduna and Kununurra found it had led to significant decreases in harmful behaviour among the current 2,100 trial participants.
“Almost 41 per cent of people are saying that they are now drinking less as a result of this card, 48 per cent of people are saying they are taking fewer drugs, 48 per cent of people are saying they are gambling less,” Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said.
“This trial has gone better than we could possibly have hoped for.”
Mr Tudge says the government will roll out the next trial around Kalgoorlie because there is a demonstrable need in the community, particularly given the harm caused by drugs.
“And secondly because there’s community leadership support here for it,” he told the ABC earlier.
But Greens community spokeswoman Rachel Siewert is disappointed about the expected announcement.
“I am concerned about the impacts this will have on people in the Goldfields community, particularly those on a working age-payment who are on a shoestring budget and cannot afford to have their income quarantined against their will,” she said.
Initial figures from the 300-page report show the program has led to falls in alcohol abuse and family violence, The Australian reported.