The Albanese Government must immediately restore the Cashless Debit Card in the Western Australian Goldfields as an emergency measure to protect women and children from alcohol-fuelled violence.
“Media reports today of the crime, violence and dysfunction occurring in Laverton are extremely disturbing and require urgent action from the Albanese Government,’’ Senator Cash said.
“The Prime Minister cannot afford to sit on his hands when the lives of women and children could be at risk,’’ she said.
The Member for O’Connor, Mr Rick Wilson MP said: “I have worked with the community on these issues since late 2015 and the Prime Minister needs to listen to local leaders like Janice Scott. She warned what would happen if the Cashless Debit Card was withdrawn.’’
“It is heartbreaking to see all the good work that was done has now evaporated and this community is back at square one,’’ Mr Wilson said.
The West Australian and Kalgoorlie Miner newspapers reported today that Laverton’s Desert Inn Hotel voluntarily imposed alcohol restrictions last week to combat alcohol-fuelled violence in the region.
The voluntary restrictions on Thursday and Friday were implemented after discussions with local police because of “public unrest”.
Shire of Laverton President Patrick Hill was reported as saying: “The kids are not getting fed, the women get bashed up and it’s going back to the way it was.”
In August last year, Cr Hill and other locals, including Indigenous leaders, warned the Albanese Government of the dangers of ending the Cashless Debit Card, which had operated effectively in Laverton. They warned that scrapping the card would lead to a surge in violence and pleaded for extra frontline services, including police and paramedics
Laverton, with a population of 1300, had been brought to its knees in the years before locals opted to support a trial of the cashless card from March 2018.
Wongatha elder Janice Scott said last year the Cashless Debit Card had made a difference in Laverton. “The biggest difference was for the kids. Suddenly they had food, they had clothing. People used to throw rocks on my roof in the middle of the night saying “I’m hungry” and that stopped. They had food at home.”
Senator Cash said it was obvious the withdrawal of the Cashless Debit Card has been a disaster for the community of Laverton.
“This is a failure of Government policy playing out on a day-to-day basis in Laverton. The Prime Minister needs to act immediately,’’ Senator Cash said.
“It is proof that when ideology gets in the way of practical solutions the outcomes can be devastating,’’ she said.
Senator Cash asked the Minister Don Farrell, representing Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth, questions about Laverton in Senate Question Time today.
“His answers were a disgrace. The best the Minister could do was say that Australians had voted for the policy,’’ she said.
“It appears from his answers that if an election promise turns out to be a disaster, then that is ok because the people voted for it. That’s not good Government.”
“He refused to apologise to that community and made no commitment to do anything to help the women and children of Laverton,’’ she said.
Senator Cash also said the Independent Member for Cottesloe Kate Chaney should explain to the people of Western Australia why she supported to withdrawal of the Cashless Debit Card.
“Ms Chaney should admit she got this wrong and apologise to the people of Western Australia for her error,’’ Senator Cash said.
Senator Cash said the McGowan State Government needed to act urgently to provide more support for the people of Laverton and should also urge the Prime Minister to act.
“Mr McGowan talks about wanting to implement an Indigenous Voice in WA but what about the voices of Laverton that are not being heard,’’ she said.
“This is unacceptable in such a wealthy State with a State Government sitting on a $5 billion surplus,’’ she said.