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SUBJECTS: Cashless welfare card; drug testing of welfare recipients; Newstart.
NARELLE GRAHAM: Senator Marielle Smith welcome.
GRAHAM: You have just returned from this trip to Ceduna and some other surrounding areas. What are you hearing about the cashless welfare card?
SMITH: Look what I’ve been hearing is really mixed. A lot of leaders in the community are supportive of the card or broadly supportive of the card but they’re starting to have more concerns then they perhaps did at its initial rollout. But then there’s other members of the community who are more often people on the card or are using the card day to day, who are really finding it quite difficult and aren’t in support of the card. So I hoped to go to Ceduna and find a really consistent perspective from people but I actually found that the views of people are really mixed on the card. 
GRAHAM: What’s Labor’s position on the card?
SMITH: Labor’s position is that if the community wants the card and the community can see real and tangible benefits for its community members then we will support them to have the card. But we don’t support a blanket roll out of the card where there hasn’t been adequate community consultation. If a community really see the benefit then Labor will stand with them for that. But we don’t support imposing this idea on communities who don’t want it or haven’t been adequately consulted. 
GRAHAM: How do you decide if a community is on board because you’re going to get, like you’ve just said you went to Ceduna and you were hoping for a consistent opinion but you didn’t get it. 
SMITH: Well that’s right. It is hard to determine community consensus and I think this is a question for the government. At the end of the day they’re the ones who want to see you further expansion of the program but they need to be able to demonstrate adequately that an entire community has been consulted or enough representatives of that community, to be truly representative of the different views in the community, in favour of the card. I don’t think we’ve necessarily seen that evidence around the country yet and that something the government needs to do. They need to meet that test if they want to see this extended. 
GRAHAM: What would be the tipping point for labour to say yes that community has said that they want the card? If it’s over 50 per cent of the community saying they want the card? 
SMITH: I don’t think it’s a question about 50 per cent or that kind of democratic test on it. I think it’s about having a really clear consultation process where you have clear feedback from people across the different of parts of the community. So not just the leadership in the community, not just members of council or Mayors but actual people who have lived experience, who’ve been on this card and people who have been on income management, who have had some success with the card, seen some benefits or otherwise but we need to extend the conversation to make sure we are including people who have lived experience. 
GRAHAM: Do you support the Coalition's push to test people on Newstart and Youth Allowance for drugs? 
SMITH: Absolutely not. I don’t support that and I am joined by medical experts from across Australia who don’t support it either. At the end of the day drug abuse should be treated as a health problem and it shouldn’t be used. This idea shouldn’t be used to further stigmatise welfare recipients. The AMA has come out and said this is mean and stigmatising and the Royal Australasian College of physicians have also criticised it. Medical practitioners are against this and I’m against it too. 
GRAHAM: That is the voice of Senator Marielle Smith. Labor Senator she has been out in Ceduna and surrounds over the past couple of days. Should Newstart be raised?
SMITH: Absolutely it should. 
GRAHAM: Does the rest of your party agree? 
SMITH: Yes they do. That is Labor’s position that Newstart should be increased.
GRAHAM: It took a while to get there though.
SMITH: Look during the election campaign Labor had a position which was less strong then it is now. I am really proud that our party has come to a stronger position and I think it’s the right position.
I think that because increasing Newstart will have particular benefits for rural and regional South Australia. They’ve got 19,000 people in regional South Australia on Newstart who are doing it really tough but more importantly than that we’ve got towns like for Ceduna, like Murray Bridge, like Whyalla which are crying out for jobs, crying out for economic stimulus and an increase in Newstart could deliver that.
This is not just a social question about what’s right for people on the payment. It’s also a question about our economy. We have stagnant wages in Australia, we have some of the lowest economic growth we’ve ever had, increasing Newstart would deliver economic stimulus. That would have a big big impact in regional South Australia. 
GRAHAM: Even if that money ended up as Senator Anne Ruston has said in pubs or in the pockets of drug dealers and I should say at this point those are Senator Ruston’s alleged words that she spoke at Murray Bridge at a particular event she was at there and I did extend an invitation to Senator Ruston to join the program today and I haven’t heard back from her people. So Senator Marielle Smith Those comments that were made. 
SMITH: Look I think this is just base politics. It is really disappointing, they were comments designed to stigmatise and demean welfare recipients And it distracts from the conversation we should be having and that’s a conversation about getting good jobs into regional areas, making sure people on Newstart are supported, making sure there are jobs for people on Newstart to actually apply for and making sure that our regional economies get the stimulus they need.
GRAHAM: Senator thank you
SMITH: Thanks Narelle