Liberal rebel Bridget Archer has abstained from voting with the Coalition against repealing the cashless debit card.
The member for Bass was absent from the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning as it passed an Albanese government Bill to abolish the income management tool for welfare recipients.
It passed 86-56, with the Coalition and independent MP Rebekha Sharkie voting against the change.
The cashless debit card program was designed to quarantine up to 80 per cent of welfare payments and prevent them from being withdrawn as cash or used to pay for gambling or alcohol.
More than 17,000 welfare recipients are on the card in trial sites in the Northern Territory, east Kimberley, Ceduna, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, Cape York and Goldfields regions.
Ms Archer broke ranks in 2020 to speak out against her own government after it expanded the scheme to run in some areas until the end of this year.
The moderate Tasmanian MP said on Tuesday night that her position hadn’t changed, as she explained her decision to abstain from voting on Labor’s Bill.
“Simply, I see the debit card program as a punitive measure enacted on the presumption that all welfare recipients in the trial sites are incapable of managing their finances and require government assistance,” she told the upper house of parliament.
Ms Archer maintained that “forced government control” on people’s finances was not the solution to addressing some of the many systemic issues that exist in communities across Australia.
However, Ms Archer said she had significant reservations about Labor’s proposed transitions for people moving away from the card.
“This is where I fall short of giving my support to this legislation,” she said.
“Despite the failure of the cashless debit card to meet its intended outcomes, removing the card without appropriate support will not fix the very problem that it’s trying to address.”
Ms Archer made headlines last year when she crossed the floor in an effort to secure protections for transgender children during the debate over the Morrison government’s contentious religious discrimination Bill.
Labor vowed during this year’s election campaign to abolish to cashless debit card scheme, which attracted significant criticism from welfare advocates and some social services groups.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth has said she expects participants to be able to opt out of the program in September, after Labor’s legislation is expected to pass through the Senate.
The Morrison government’s cashless debit card legislation will expire on December 31 — a deadline for participants to be transitioned to other support programs.