The vote to make the cashless welfare card permanent in trial sites and to expand it into the Northern Territory and Cape York passed the lower house by one after Bass Liberal MHR Bridget Archer abstained.
The final vote of 62-61 means the bill goes to the Senate where it faces potential opposition from crossbench senators, including Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie.
However, had Ms Archer voted against the bill - following her speech last week criticising the scheme - it would have been defeated, as confirmed by the Speaker following the vote when questioned about protocol during tied votes.
Crossbench lower house MHRs, including Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie and Zali Steggall, all voted against the cashless welfare card expansion.
MORE ON THE CASHLESS WELFARE CARD DEBATE:
- Bridget Archer speaks of opposition to cashless welfare card, hopes to 'transition away'
- Tasmanian Liberal senator Wendy Askew backs in CDC expansion as chair of committee
- Senator Jacqui Lambie unlikely to support CDC trial extension
- Bridget Archer chooses to abstain from CDC vote, has full support of Tasmanian Liberals
- Archer wants focus on payday lenders rather than cashless welfare card
Labor was quick to criticise Ms Archer for abstaining when her vote could have resulted in the Bill's defeat, given her stated opposition to the card on principle.
Tasmanian Labor senator Helen Polley said that Ms Archer had effectively supported the government by abstaining.
"If she had decided to show up to her day job, for the vote, then the bill would have been defeated," she said.
Ms Archer's office directed media questions regarding the vote outcome to the Leader of the House, as her only commitment was to abstain.
Earlier today, Ms Archer said the partial leak to Guardian Australia of an Adelaide University report into the cashless welfare card, which reportedly found "little consensus" that it was fulfilling its aim, was not surprising.
The cashless welfare card rollout just passed the parliament by one vote, on the 3rd reading of the Bill (62 to 61). Bridget Archer, who has been widely reported as being opposed to the Bill, abstained. If she had voted “no” it would have been defeated. #politas#auspol— Brian Mitchell MP (@BrianMitchellMP) December 7, 2020
"The report from the University of Adelaide is not surprising to me and highlights the concerns outlined in my speech that this program is not effectively changing the behaviour it seeks to address," she said.
Welfare and unemployment groups have spoken of their concern at apparent plans to further extend the card into new areas, which Ms Archer said she would unequivocally oppose for Bass.
Another bill could be introduced next year.
Australian Unemployed Workers' Union spokesperson Kristin O'Connell said it would be crucial for Ms Archer to continue voicing her opposition to the further expansion, along with other government MPs.
"It's already been announced that they are planning to do that (further extend it) - it's not 'maybe', they said it will happen," she said.
"I think it's very naive of Bridget Archer to think she can prevent it going to Bass, if she allows it to roll out further to other sites."
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