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Australia: Say NO to the cashless debit card!

Discussion in 'Advocacy Action Alerts' started by Simone, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Say No to the Cashless Debit Card!

    If the cashless debit card (CDC) is rolled out across Australia, this will affect YOU!

    The cashless debit card (CDC) is an income management program that has been trialled in a handful of sites around the country. ‪The CDC is compulsory for all Centrelink recipients including DSP (in most sites) & Newstart. Aged pensions are excluded.

    The CDC quarantines 80% of your payment. This would limit your access to:
    -online shopping
    -purchases from markets or second-hand shops
    -cash payments to helpers

    The Senate is likely to vote on an expansion (to include the Northern Territory) and extension of the CDC trial in the next few weeks, and it’s likely that some time this year the government will present legislation to make the program national.

    In all the discussions among politicians about the CDC, we’ve not seen anything about the impact of the card on people with chronic illnesses like ME/CFS, and we think there should be.

    Now is the time to act! Can you send a quick, low energy email? A template letter and instructions are provided below.

    POLITICAL BACKGROUND
    The government has legislation in the Senate to extend the trial for another year and expand it to all of the Northern Territory. There are also strong signs that they plan to expand the program nationally to anyone of working age receiving social security payments.

    Senator Jacqui Lambie and Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie (Mayo, SA) have just done “fact finding missions”, visiting communities where the card has been implemented to understand how the card is working.

    Senator Lambie and the Centre Alliance votes are critical, and now is the time that they’re formulating their opinions about the card. So we are asking the community to write letters to these key politicians to let them know how the CDC will impact people like you and ask them to vote against expanding and extending the trial.

    HOW TO JOIN ME ADVOCACY NETWORK AUSTRALIA’s CAMPAIGN!
    1. LOW ENERGY OPTION
    We’ve developed a template letter, with five key points. Choose the points that are meaningful to you. Download the template letters from here:
    Senate Lambie: https://app.box.com/s/v0zfxggjhxnciygr21u18eku9ip1m5j6
    Rebekha Sharkie: https://app.box.com/s/97sowpbep9dz4jr18ca3hi9wxw3c5322

    2. MEDIUM ENERGY OPTION
    Add some personal story. Politicians pay much more attention to individualised and personal letters. For example, describe your life with ME/CFS and how the CDC would make it even more difficult. Use emotive (but not abusive) language.

    3. Send the letter to one or more of these politicians:

    Senator Jacqui Lambie: senator.lambie@aph.gov.au
    Rebekha Sharkie MP (Centre Alliance Party): Rebekha.Sharkie.mp@aph.gov.au

    If you live in either Tasmania or South Australia, your letter will be especially crucial! Please remember to include your address on your letter, so they know you’re from their state.
    Emails/letters from other states are important and WILL get through but you will probably not receive a reply.

    4. Please let us know that you’ve sent a letter by leaving a comment on this post.

    This letter writing campaign will end after the vote has been taken in the Senate. This may occur late February – March. We will keep you updated.

    BACKGROUND ON THE SCHEME
    WHAT IS THE CASHLESS DEBIT CARD?
    The cashless debit card (CDC) is an income management program which the government has implemented for some people on social security payments. The program involves quarantining 80% of the individual’s social security payment onto the card, leaving only 20% available as cash. There are restrictions on where the card can be used to shop (for example, the CDC can’t be used on eBay).

    The government has claimed that the purpose of the card is to reduce gambling and substance abuse among those looking for work. The argument is that if people can’t buy these things, then they’re less likely to be an obstacle to finding work. The card has been strongly criticised and opposed by welfare groups and addiction treatment groups for adding additional hardship, restrictions and stigma to already vulnerable populations, and for lacking evidence that it works.

    The CDC program is compulsory for those on the relevant payments living in the trial sites.

    PLANS FOR EXPANSION
    The government has indicated its plans to expand the program nationally. If it does so, it is likely that it will be rolled out to everyone of working age receiving a social security payment, whether they’re jobseekers or not. As part of this planned expansion, the government is reframing the CDC from being a tool to manage addictions, to being a “financial literacy tool”, claiming it will help low income people to better manage their money. There’s no evidence that it helps money management. Just the opposite in fact.

    We should note that the legislation for the national rollout has not yet been developed, so nothing is definite. There is still scope for the national rollout to be voted down completely, or for the legislation (when it is presented) to be modified. When the legislation for a national rollout is presented in parliament, we will expand this advocacy campaign to target more politicians.

    Please share widely, especially with groups or people you know in Tasmania or South Australia!
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
    Webdog, MEMarge, JaneL and 15 others like this.
  2. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    This system has the potential to result in me not being able to pay my rent. My landlord does not accept the kinds of payments that Centrelink would permit. I only have one payment option, and if this is not available I will become homeless unless I can opt out of this program.
     
    MEMarge, JaneL, alktipping and 13 others like this.
  3. Kitty

    Kitty Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    If people are so dependent, they'll surely just resort to stealing?

    I'd never heard of schemes like this before. It sounds like a major assault on human rights.
     
    JaneL, alktipping, Rosie and 8 others like this.
  4. lansbergen

    lansbergen Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Yep
     
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  5. Invisible Woman

    Invisible Woman Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Absurd and abusive are the first two words that spring to mind.

    Edit - forgot to ask would it help if foreign nationals, living abroad wrote too?
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  6. chrisb

    chrisb Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It would be interesting to know the providers of the technology, whom they lobbied, and what benefits might have been transferred by means other than cashless debit card.
     
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  7. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It's been illegal to do this sort of thing for many years in many places.

    It's just a version of this;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_scrip

    and will have the same consequences - places that accept it with end up either hiking up prices or decreasing the quality of what they sell.

    Captive customers will have no choice but to buy from wherever takes the CDC however much they charge, the quality of the goods, or however much they have to travel.

    Clearly people in receipt of any form of state benefits aren't considered 'citizens' and thus not covered by the laws to protect citizens from exploitation.
     
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  8. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Sadly, not in this case. But thank you for offering!
     
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  9. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    The card program is run by a company called Indue, which has connections to the political party which is currently in government.
     
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  10. large donner

    large donner Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    The purpose of this is to dispose of cash altogether then every single transaction anyone makes can be seen, scrutinised and judged in real time. Then that data will also be shared with insurance companies, health care suppliers and change agents etc.

    It will also give them algorithms of "unnecessary spending" and will assist them in keeping the minimum wage as low as suits them and any agency who has an interest in asset stripping.

    This may be a roll out on people on benefits now but cash is going to disappear fast if the establishment have their way.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  11. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Yep, all of this.

    The program has been around for a few years now, just in small trial sites. Every year, the government presents new legislation to extend the trial another year and add a new site or two. It started as something called the Basics Card more than a decade ago, which specifically targeted Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. That the program has deeply racist origins should surprise no one familiar with Australian politics.

    There have been several parliamentary inquiries into the card, each time the submissions are overwhelmingly opposed to the card and point out the flaws (we wrote a submission back in 2017). The Australian Human Rights Commission has made submissions that the program breaches Australia’s human rights obligations. But, when you’ve demonised poor people for decades, you can get away with it because the public’s response isn’t outrage, it’s “If you don’t like it, get a job”.

    Unlike banks, apparently there’s no fraud protection on the card, so if someone hacks into your account (or steals your card) and steals your money, well that’s just your tough luck.

    The government now claims that people on the card can apply to exit the program (if they can demonstrate that they’ve been managing their finances appropriately). Apparently about 700 people have left the program, but most seem to have left because they either got a job (and weren’t receiving payments anymore) or they breached the rules somehow and so were kicked off benefits. There’s no evidence that anyone has managed to leave after requesting to do so.

    I’m surprised that no human rights lawyers have launched a class action about this. It’s creating second class citizens.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  12. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Funny you should mention the plan to dispose of cash, they’re tackling that from another angle too.
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10...y-post-mp-concerns-on-freedom-breach/11640124
     
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  13. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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  14. large donner

    large donner Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I couldn't believe that random breath tests where permitted in Australia when I saw it on a TV show the other day.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
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  15. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It’s going to make life difficult for so many.

    I don’t know if this is helpful: You can do a direct transfer to an external bank account from the card. There are two categories for external transfers: housing and other expenses.

    Housing has no limits to the amount you can transfer, so most people should be able to pay their rent electronically (hopefully that would cover your one method?). The other problem is that there are reports of cardholders who have set up their rent to be paid through the card as an automatic payment and then the system has failed and their rent wasn’t paid. Then they’ve had to spent time and effort on the phone to Indue getting it sorted, and meanwhile were at risk of being evicted. Sick people don’t have spare energy to spend chasing up failed systems. We do enough of that already.

    Other expenses has $200 every 28 days, so for people who are home bound or bedbound and have asked someone to buy things for them and want to reimburse them, the max they can transfer to them is $200 in a month, otherwise they’d have to use the 20% of their payment available as cash. It’s just going to make everything harder.
     
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  16. Simone

    Simone Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    We’ve had random breath testing in Australian for as long as I can remember. Very few people object to to it, because it’s seen to have reduced to road toll. But we are a nanny state: it’s been compulsory to wear seat belts since the 1970s.
     
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  17. rvallee

    rvallee Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    This is shockingly dumb. Like most housebound people, I make most of my purchases online. How are housebound people supposed to buy stuff if online purchases are limited? This maximally hurts the most vulnerable, it's almost designed as a program to cause despair among the most vulnerable.
     
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  18. Simbindi

    Simbindi Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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  19. large donner

    large donner Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I'm pretty sure this type of system already exists in the US for payment of benefits?
     
  20. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    This is prohibited by my landlord's agents. They do not allow anyone to know their bank details. I strongly suspect that they have been targeted by criminals in the past. Bank systems are frequently hacked, and accounts drained. There are options that might allow me to pay my rent under the new system, but only if they are implemented right. I am sufficiently cynical about their capacity to do so, but I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.
     
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