Bioethics Blogs

Welfare 2.0? Abbott, Forrest and the “Healthy Welfare Card”

A recently released review by Australian mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest (news article available here, full report available here) investigating training and employment for Indigenous Australians has made a controversial recommendation for the introduction of a “Healthy Welfare Card” for all recipients of welfare assistance in Australia, except for those on aged or veteran’s pensions.

The Healthy Welfare Card

The Healthy Welfare Card is the centerpiece of a new cashless system proposed by Forrest, to encourage responsible spending, reduce welfare fraud, administration costs, and increase financial inclusion. Future welfare payments, he envisions, will be directed to an account at a nominated responsible financial institution, presumably one of the Four Pillars of Australian banking. The Healthy Welfare Card is the direct debit card linked to this banking account, but with a twist – spending on “alcohol, gambling products, illicit services and instruments that can be converted to cash (such as gift cards) and…activities discouraged by government, or illegal in some places, such as pornography” will be restricted, presumably by prohibition of certain retail outlets or at the point-of-sale. The card will be usable at all Australian retail stores that accept VISA or MASTERCARD via EFTPOS facilities (except for the aforementioned), but will not permit the withdrawal of cash.

The justifications and benefits for the Healthy Welfare Card highlighted variously throughout the report and article include:

  1. Achieving financial stability and empowering individuals by enhancing responsible spending.
  2. Financial inclusion through the use of mainstream banking.
  3. Streamlining the welfare payments system by reducing fraud and administration costs.
  4. Reducing welfare costs by removing distractions to employment, and thus decreasing long-term reliance on welfare.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.