Cashless welfare card supporters a secret

Dan McCulloch

The federal government is refusing to say which community leaders support the continuation of cashless welfare cards at Kununurra in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia.

The government says it consulted working groups at the two trial sites, but wouldn't name the local leaders when pressed by Greens senator Rachel Siewert.

"The department approached some of the members of the above groups to ask whether they agreed to their names being provided in this response," it said in response to a question on notice posed at a recent Senate hearing.

"Some of them requested their names not be provided at this stage."

The government decided last month to continue to use the debit cards at the two sites after a review found they'd been effective in reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling.

The cards quarantine 80 per cent of welfare payments, which cannot be used to buy booze or gamble, but can pay for housing, food, clothing, household supplies and essentials.

The remaining 20 per cent of a welfare payment is placed in a person's regular bank account and can be withdrawn as cash.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge says the cards are not a panacea but have led to stark improvements in the communities where the trials took place.

One outspoken supporter is Ian Trust, the executive director of the Wunan Foundation, an Aboriginal development organisation in the East Kimberley, who says he's observed clear differences before and after the trial.

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Mr Tudge has been too busy trying to save his own skin to consult communities about the cards.

"Yet again Mr Tudge isn't doing his job and properly consulting people," Mr Shorten told reporters in Queensland on Wednesday.

Senator Siewert said it was not good enough for the government to claim community leaders supported the cashless welfare card trials and then refuse to provide their names.

"People forced on to the card deserve to know who these 'leaders' are because they may be self-appointed and not representing the views of the community," she said.