Jason Glennister behind the counter at the Swamp Store in Depot Hill. He is one of many small businesses that may be affected by the welfare reforms set to become reality in Rockhampton.
Jason Glennister behind the counter at the Swamp Store in Depot Hill. He is one of many small businesses that may be affected by the welfare reforms set to become reality in Rockhampton. Chris Ison

Retailers want quarantine answers

RETAILERS in Rockhampton selling food to people on Centrelink payments will have to sign up to a program to get money quarantined as part of a welfare abuse crackdown.

The program, revealed in yesterday's Morning Bulletin, was not compulsory, but would force any Centrelink clients deemed ‘at risk', to have at least half of their welfare payments quarantined from them, to be spent only on essential goods such as food and medicine.

As is the case in several similar programs being trialled in Cape York and the Northern Territory, Centrelink will give its clients a ‘Basics Card'.

It will be an EFTPOS-style card which will release funds only to those businesses registered by the social security department as ‘Basics Card merchants'.

Jason Glennister, who runs The Swamp Store corner shop in Depot Hill, says he wants government representatives to explain how small businesses can register.

“I talk to everybody, and I think you have to do that in a corner shop, but I've never come across anything like this before.”

Mr Glennister said he wanted to know if it (applying to become a Basics Card merchant) would be worth it.

He said: “I don't want to have to go through all of that filling out the forms and applying if it only means one customer difference, but if the government can tell me that lots of people in the area are on Centrelink benefits, then obviously I will need to apply.”

While the system will stop payments for tobacco, alcohol, pornography and gambling, the other half of the payment can be spent freely.

Any retailers will have to apply to Centrelink to be registered under the income management program by filling out an 11-page application form, the first step in the process.

According to Centrelink records, in Rockhampton only Woolworths, Coles, Target and Kmart and affiliated petrol stations are registered – a total of 12 retail outlets.

Minister for Families, Housing, Communities and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin was contacted to comment for this story, but no response was received by deadline yesterday.



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