Abbott eyes national cashless welfare plan

Dan McCulloch

Tony Abbott wants to see cashless welfare cards rolled out across Australia, after being buoyed by the results of initial trials in tackling gambling and substance abuse.

The former prime minister is spending the week in Western Australia's East Kimberley, where the cards are already in use in indigenous communities, and wants to see the scheme expanded as quickly as possible.

"If you're a working age person on welfare - particularly if you've got kids - why shouldn't a very significant percentage of your taxpayer income be quarantined for the necessities of life," he told 2GB radio on Monday.

"This has got a lot of potential for the welfare system right around our country."

The cards quarantine 80 per cent of welfare payments for use on food and other essentials, while the remainder is free to be withdrawn as cash.

Mr Abbott believes the twin "curses" of grog and gambling are prevalent not only in remote Aboriginal communities but other areas of high welfare dependency.

"When you've got people that are idle for long periods of time then you've got a whole lot of other abuses in the wake of that," he said.

The federal government has introduced legislation to extend trials in the East Kimberley and Ceduna in South Australia and expand the program to two more sites, but says it has no plans for a national rollout.

The Goldfields region in WA is a strong contender to host a trial after community leaders in Kalgoorlie, Laverton and Leonora expressed interest in taking part.

The federal government has held more than 200 consultations in the area and believes there is strong support.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge says more consultations are planned for the Pilbara region after some leaders called for the cards, while locations on Australia's east coast are also being considered.

The Greens remain flatly opposed to the cards, while Labor wants the legislation scrutinised by a Senate inquiry and says it will adopt a community-by-community approach.