By Amanda Smith
The Cashless Debit Card is the latest iteration of a policy called “compulsory income management” (CIM) in Australia. Compulsory income management – meaning government and corporate control over all or portions of people’s social security entitlement payments, is an idea that had its roots as far back as 1982 in government, though it began in earnest in 2007, targeting over 70 Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory with the roll out of the “Basics Cards” during the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) also known as “The Intervention”.
Much the same as Basics Cards, the Cashless Debit Card began its life based on the racist, classist assumptions and stereotypes of a multi billionaire, and through a raft of political lies and the manipulation of media and the public. The history of NTER is explained well here. The history of the Cashless Debit Card, is still being lived and written.
The Cashless Debit Card (aka the “CDC”) is the end result of The Creating Parity Report, written by Andrew Forrest. The CDC program currently operates across six sites – East Kimberley, Ceduna, Goldfields, Hinkler electorate, Cape York Region and the Northern Territory. Despite being introduced by government as a limited 12-month trial in one location, the policy is now in its sixth year of blanket operation and expanding rapidly.
The Cashless Debit Card takes 80% of a person’s social security entitlement and quarantine it into a third-party account.
To be specific, the LNP hands legal ownership of that 80% portion to a private (alleged) LNP-backed financial services corporation – Indue Ltd.
This leaves the payment recipient with access to just 20% of the payment paid into their personal account ‘as cash’.
This 20% is the only “lawful income” that the banks ‘see’ which has had the effect of ending access to the credit system and loans for most participants. For some payment recipients that 20% cash sum is less than $7 a day.
Despite the LNP’s media spin, Indue income management cards are not “just welfare paid out in another form.” If placed onto a card, a person’s income is strictly and actively managed by Indue Ltd and the Department, who exert control over all spending, not just over purchases of prohibited items. At any time, the Department or Indue Ltd acting independently can reject any purchase while also controlling your access to venues, from hotels/motels, and air travel, to the local school photographer and bookstores.
Despite government rhetoric, not one report on Indue income management cards or any compulsory third party income management iteration in over 14 years has shown any success from the act of quarantining peoples income.
To the contrary, extensive longitudinal studies showed increases in individual and community health problems and devastating social harms including increases in infant mortality and low birth weights, rises in domestic violence, increases in Centrelink and government dependency, culminating in the entrenchment of poverty in every roll out region.
Rising crime rates, crimes of opportunity and increases in suicides and attempted suicides of forced trial participants and people on other forms of forced income management are just some of the ‘side effects’ and have all been reported to the Senate since 2017.
The impact of increased bank and transaction fees and other financial losses forced program participants have had to endure, have also been documented multiple times in multiple senate inquiries.
Why you should care about the Indue Card:
➤ Legal and Civil Rights: Government is using the social status and economic dis-empowerment experienced by the unemployed as a means to segregate forced Indue Income Management trial participants from their communities and society as a whole. They are circumventing civil and economic rights, ‘justify’ Human Rights infringements nefariously, and even bypassing Social Security law itself.
➤ Social and economic segregation based on income source: The existence of several exemptions to existing Consumer laws and Data rules given to Indue Ltd by the Morrison government and written into the cashless welfare arrangements section of the Social Security Act, has meant that people on Indue Income Management cards have been prohibited from taking legal actions against the department on discrimination grounds, and are prevented from acting against Indue Ltd for economic losses or personal injuries. Government has provided this company with a ‘no action’ letter and other exemptions often mean complaints, while important to make, simply go nowhere. Importantly, and rather than changing laws directly, the Morrison government is simply not enforcing them for anyone captured under this policy.
📌Link to ASIC exemption letter (img4): https://t.co/E9zmIqtoch
(Img 1&2) ACCC exemptions
(Img 3) Consumer Exemption for businesses written into the Social Security (admin) Act 1999 Vol2 part 3D Div5.https://t.co/YK4u5QpH15
—#auspol #cashlessdebitcard #induecard pic.twitter.com/2e7xAsCxje
— SN7 🌱 (@thesayno7) October 11, 2021
➤ All of these payments: Which represent the majority of Centrelink payments, excepting DVA, are captured by this program.
➤ Human Rights Abuses: The Indue Income Management card as we cal the CDC, infringes on five articles of non-discrimination law and other articles of human rights legislation. The AHRC writing in multiple senate submissions, has stated repeatedly that this policy does not meet Australian human rights standards or obligations and that despite Government claims, these infringements on our basic human rights, are not justified.
➤ Workers: Full-time, gig, part-time and casual, and including union members are on cards right now.
➤ Targeting women, children and people with disabilities and carers: People aged 16-100 yrs and people with disabilities are on cards right now.
➤ Public money being wasted: Massive sums of public money is being preferentially given to a private corporation in payments and in contract, milestone payments and management fees. Public money is going offshore and returning via Bank of America, at significant cost to the Australian public and forced trial participants in interest losses and international banking and transaction fees.
➤ Needless duplication of service: The Indue cards were never about drugs/alcohol or welfare spending. These were just a pretext for roll out of the policy. Government already had income management in place for people the department considered ‘at risk’, it is called the weekly payments income management program. People on this program were until Dec 2020, exempt from current “trials”.
➤ Reducing community cashflow: Indue Income Management cards reduce local spending in small businesses and second hand markets, they impact and restrict the cash flow to all businesses within communities they have been rolled out in. Government is removing money from the community at a time the community needs it desperately.
➤ Housing/Homelessness Crisis: The impact of Indue unreliability in rent payments and direct debit transfers has made people homeless and reduced peoples living incomes. Hinkler electorate is now #1 for homelessness in QLD.
The issue of STIGMA: https://t.co/yuv3bnEly8
Rental breaches due to Indue Ltd non payment or 28day cycle issues: img.
— SN7 🌱 (@thesayno7) February 9, 2020
➤ Usurping institutional practices: In April 2019, an amendment to the legislation was made, that enabled people to “exit” the cashless debit card program. However by Jan 1st 2020 just 14 forced participants of over 12,000 had been exited and the excuses given now to thousands more for rejecting exit and well-being applications border on the inhumane and ridiculous. Exit decisions – a determination of “individual capacity to manage ones own financial and other affairs” are made in secret by DSS and usurp the role of the State Trustee and bypass all normally applicable fiduciary and guardianship rights and processes.
(See also: Cashless welfare card recipients denied exit from trial claim unfair treatment, ABC News).
➤ Plans for more “inclusive” trials: Not content to expand the program to the entire NT and Cape York regions in December of 2020, the department has now included age pension in the Act, and age pensioners in Cape York are now compulsorily on the card. Both Liberal and National Party have publicly confirmed, a national roll out of this program will comments, and proceed incrementally – starting with all under 35s.
(See: Nationals MPs push party to support Australia-wide rollout of cashless card, welfare inquiry, SMH); Age pension ministers #QON reply and confirmation of inclusion; Government have already budgeted for expansions #estimates response; and Legislation including Age Pension in the Act).
➤ Civil and Legal Rights: Among a serious if legal rights and protections suspended or removed from forced program participants under the cashless debit card program, participant privacy rights are, in practice, wholly suspended. While government continues to distract the public by stating they and Indue Ltd are bound to the Privacy Act, clauses within the 89 page Indue Ltd terms and conditions brochure state clearly that data is on sold to several nations. If people refuse to allow this data gathering process, access to the Indue Ltd account and 80% of their income, is suspended.
➤ Political lies and misrepresentation of facts: Government has gone to great lengths to misrepresent information and data concerning the trials even to the point of withholding the entire Adelaide University Report and Evaluation from the Australian Senate until after the December 2020 vote to expand the program further had taken place. The Adelaide University evaluation was a damning indictment against expansion, and documented substantial increases in Domestic Violence social harms, children at risk, increased financial stress and resulted in an 85.4% NO positive impact for the six years of program roll out overall. It also failed to provide answers to the questions demanded in legislation as to the programs suitability for expansion entirely. If those answers exist, they have never been released to the public.
Not one senator or MP who voted to expand and extend the program had read the evaluation prior to voting. The evaluation cost the Australian public $2.5M.
➤ Plans to let the banks run social security payment systems: The LNP have declared they want the Big 4 banks to take over day to day running of Indue Income Management cards. If this plan goes ahead, your mortgage holder will have the power and authority to control your every day spending.
➤ It doesn’t work to solve problems: Every report, both government and independent on the card trials to date, has shown the Indue Income Management Card has not achieved the results which are being claimed by the Federal Government.
➤ Targeting the vulnerable: The Indue Income Management cards are crippling people already bearing burdens most people wouldn’t or couldn’t bear themselves and they are bringing the spectre of active socioeconomic apartheid to everyone’s front door.
Every one of these claims is backed by survey & first person reporting data, family self reporting, senate submissions, senate testimony & senate hansard records. All of these reports have been ignored, denied & dismissed by the LNP & their pro-card cohorts & Mindaroo lobbyists pic.twitter.com/jd7B9U3mgj
— SN7 🌱 (@thesayno7) February 8, 2020
➤ You are already being impacted: Even if you are not on the card yourself, we are all still being impacted directly through:
The rising cost of Social Security, insurance, social and economic impacts of entrenched systemic poverty; mental health declines, rising crime and homelessness, the impact of overwhelmed services.
We are all impacted by the erosion of citizenship rights and liberties, the undermining of equality in the application of the rule of law; workers rights and power is being undermined. And unaccountable( to Senate) corporations are taking control of government portfolios.
Needless to say, the impact of wholesale privatisation, the wider acceptance and silence on the inhumanity and neglect of vulnerable people as well as the division this policy has created and maintained in our communities, is harming us all.
There is no sector of Australian society and no sector in the fight for social justice that is not directly or indirectly impacted by the advent and expansion of Compulsory Income Management policy.
Thanks to people who follow and support No Cashless Welfare Debit Card Australia and the Say No Seven group, a fight back against this draconian policy and the ideology driving it has been ongoing. Grassroots effort has contributed to the end of bipartisan support for the policy in 2017 and has included sabotaging plans for the national rollout in 2018, raising noise levels so loud that the Hinkler rollout, largest group on cards in the country, became a limited shadow of the intended policy itself, to supporting the defense of the NT expansion – also a shadow of government intentions, and the continued process of raising public awareness. Today’s grassroots involvement in the Protecting Pensioners Task Force being run by the ALP has allowed cardholders and grassroots a means through which to address major issues with senators and members of the public alike. For the last six years these groups have been fighting tooth and nail to combat the government narrative and share the facts about this policy and its impacts.
The three causes that guide the SN7 and NCWDCA are:
- To amplify the voices of people being impacted negatively by the Cashless Debit Card policy.
- To investigate and promote the policy’s role in the segregation of people on centrelink from the rule of law and to highlight ongoing centrelink privatisation issues.
- To overcome propaganda and explain to the public the differences between simple cashless-ness and forced third party income management cards.
Members of these grassroots groups have spoken in the press, in the Senate, in the streets, out font of Centrelink offices and at market stalls across the country.
Via active fact checking of government misinformation and obfuscation, they have impacted the social narrative and myth busted their way to an ever widening informed support base. While they have had success in delaying the roll outs and impacting the roll out agenda thus far, they urgently need your support and help now more than ever.
The most important thing you can do to support them, is to take the time to get informed and learn about the local and national impacts of “life on the card”. Please share this information to all your networks and families, and let them know this card is coming to their doorsteps, too. We have very little time left to lift the roof of public awareness and urge you to gather your resources to support and participate in supporting this vital grassroots effort.
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