Peter Dutton said the cashless debit card has improved the lives of many users. Is he correct? – Michmutters

Peter Dutton said the cashless debit card has improved the lives of many users. Is he correct?

CheckMate is a weekly newsletter from RMIT FactLab which recaps the latest in the world of fact checking and misinformation, drawing on the work of FactLab and its sister organisation, RMIT ABC Fact Check.

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CheckMate August 5, 2022

This week, we examined a claim by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton that the soon-to-be-axed cashless debit card was well received by trial participants and led to a significant drop in gambling.

We also investigate whether the global outbreak of monkeypox means the virus has become “airborne”, and debunk claims that COVID-19 vaccinations are weakening our immune systems and driving higher reinfection rates.

Peter Dutton hailed the ‘success’ of the cashless debit card. But how successful was it?

Peter Dutton holds one finger up while sitting in the house of representatives
Not quite right: Peter Dutton has been talking up the results of a survey on the cashless debit card, but the majority said the program had made life “worse.”(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government gets to work on delivering its election promises, legislation to scrap the cashless debit card (CDC) program is set to become one of the first bills debated by the new parliament.

The Coalition, however, says it still “strongly supports” the program, which quarantines 50-80 per cent of a welfare recipient’s payments (depending on jurisdiction and circumstance) on a card that cannot be used on drugs, alcohol or gambling.

“Research from the University of Adelaide showed that the cashless debit card led to a 21 per cent decrease in gambling and 45 per cent of people believed it had improved their lives,” Opposition Leader Peter Dutton told parliament last week.

But that’s not quite what the research says.

The January 2021 report referenced by Mr Dutton was commissioned by the former Coalition government and involved a survey of CDC participants across the program’s first three trial sites.

Despite his claim that 45 per cent of participants “believed [the card] had improved their lives”, the report found just 15 per cent said it had made life “better”, while 17 per cent reported no difference.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent of those surveyed said the program had made life “worse.”

More broadly, only 21 per cent of those surveyed said the CDC had made a “positive difference” on quality of life for themselves, their family, friends and wider community.

As for gambling, the report “found some evidence of reductions … as a direct outcome of the CDC” — though it does not state gambling was reduced by 21 per cent, as Mr Dutton claimed.

According to the report, 14.4 per cent of participants gambled in the 12 months prior to the introduction to the CDC while 11 per cent were still gambling post-introduction.

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