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Cashless cards stymie self determination

  • 03 December 2020
Late last month, with a cheery, ‘I’ll get that in the post to you this afternoon’, the administration official promised to send the hard copy of the Inquiry into the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020.

What is contained in the document of course is anything but cheery to those for whom the legislation is intended. It’s the latest push of the federal government to make permanent that which their rulers believe is best for the lower classes, in particular, the First Nations lower classes.

I guess it’s an aside but it seems puzzling that the adherents of opposition to state control of public services like our railways and telecommunications, at the other extreme are nevertheless proponents of minute state control of day-to-day affairs of individual citizens in the system of Income Management (IM).

Surely it’s shameful to the rest of us in our nation that we keep heaping burdens on those whose life is already so burdensome. As a Ceduna SA Aboriginal person framed the whole of the Income Management scheme: ‘We’re starting to feel like we’re back in the ration days when white people managed our lives and everything else and treated us like children. It’s the same now. We’re treated like children and so we can’t make decisions for ourselves. We’re moving backwards, not forwards.’

The stages so far of Australia’s IM regime stretch from 2007 under both Coalition and Labor governments.

Stage one was BasicCards for over 25,000 people originally as part of the Northern Territory Intervention. Stage two was BasicCards for the six chosen nationwide ‘Other Areas’. Stage three was Cashless Cards to the Ceduna region that is Ceduna/ Yalata Aboriginal Aboriginal Community/ Oak Valley Aboriginal Community (Maralinga Lands) and to the East Kimberley region. Later to the WA Goldfields and lastly Bundaberg and Hervey Bay QLD. All areas with high percentages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Stage 4 is the present CDC bill, which as the Greens dissenting report well summarises: ‘seeks to permanently entrench compulsory income management in the form of the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) as part of Australia’s social security system.’

'Both First Nations Senators are the signatories on Labor's Dissenting Report to the current bill. There is much to dissent about.'

Reading the government controlled Senate Committee recommendations regarding the current bill and then the dissenting reports is like reading about two parallel universes. In the former, the emphasis, while quoting various submissions,