By The Say No Seven
We could provide you with dozens of individual examples of ministers from Tudge to Pitt, Fletcher and Tehan all lying openly in parliament and misleading parliament about the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) but we won’t. Instead, we will focus on what happened during the last CDC “bill process” in the Senate in December 2020 as it’s fresh in everyone’s minds and offers perhaps the clearest insight into just how little trust anyone can place in this policy, and in those who are promoting it.
First things first, please watch the video below as it provides context for this article.
People need to be aware that the CDC bill that was eventually voted on and passed in the Senate in December 2020, was an amended alternative mashup of the “Continuation Bill” that was originally sent to parliament. It was not the same bill that had been presented by LNP and put up for debate in the House of Representatives or Senate prior to this night’s vote. Amended so heavily as it was, what eventually passed was a resultant mess of amendment vote-buying and deal-brokering that completely altered key areas of the original bill.
Continuation Bill 2020 was itself a bill that was rushed out after LNP withdrew the original expansion and extension bill they wanted to present “Transition Bill 2019”, after campaigning raised enough community and political awareness that that bill was doomed to failure and we suspect, after Centre Alliance (CA) indicated they would not support it.
With me so far?
In any case, on this night of the final Senate vote and as you can see in the video, Senator McCarthy questioned the validity of the amendments being offered by Anne Ruston and the amendment’s impact on understandings agreed to by people who had been involved in the year long process until that time. She pointed out that the bill then before the chamber was completely different and asked the pertinent question about who Anne had consulted about the last-minute changes.
Anne then openly lied right to everyone’s faces, even using the opposition members themselves as ‘reasons’ and justification for her apparent ‘change her mind’ last minute in merely ‘offering’ a voluntary transition process via amendment after the second vote – a vote that ordinarily, would have been the end of proceedings.
Then something remarkable happened. Raw fact-sharing hit the chamber in the form of Senator Jacqui Lambie, who called out Anne Ruston for lying about the “hows” and “whys” and chastised her for her obfuscation and dishonesty. Sen. Lambie then further revealed that in fact no one had been consulted about the amendment changes made on the night and then told the Senate that the amendments had stemmed from a private deal, suspected and alluded to by Sen. Siewert and others earlier, that had been struck she states, 24hrs earlier in a senate chamber backroom moshup between LNP and Centre Alliance.
While Jacqui is certainly and absolutely to be commended for her own honesty, and for highlighting Anne Ruston’s lies and overall dishonesty, she also tried to paint CA in a positive light as somehow responsible for ‘rescuing’ people from the bulk compulsory transfer to CDC government wanted, by providing a ‘voluntary transfer’ amendment option to Anne Ruston.
This is not the case, however. In reality, had Stirling Griff (CA) simply voted NO in the Senate at the second vote, the cashless debit card trials would have ended right then and there, as the Centre Alliance vote WAS the deciding vote LNP needed to pass it.
No amendments were necessary had Centre Alliance genuinely planned to vote against the bill as they publicly stated they were going to.
Whatever deal was done, the inducements offered by LNP to gain the CA vote remain unknown to this day, and to our view, these inducements were clearly offered before the bill even made it to the House of Representatives (HoR) earlier in the week.
We can say this with some confidence, as in the HoR process earlier in the week, Rebekah Sharkie, Bridget Archer and Zali Steggall teamed up to block ALP amendments bought in by shadow social services minister Linda Burney that would have ensured the bill never made it to Senate at all.
Later, both Zali and Rebekah easily voted ‘no’ to the bill at the final HoR vote in order to save political face, as they were both by then fully aware that Archer’s much-publicised abstention would give the bill a one vote majority for LNP, and see it passed on to the Senate anyway.
Had Zali and Rebekah backed Linda Burney’s amendments, the bill would have been blocked then and there in the HoR, and CDC would have ended on schedule, Dec 31st, 2020.
Twice Centre Alliance formed unreported alliances with others and the LNP to affect the passage of this bill though both House and Senate.
The entire process surrounding Continuation Bill 2020 was crooked and a rot from the get-go, with CA promising people publicly and on record, that they would not vote for extension and expansion of cashless debit cards before seeing the evidence contained within the Adelaide University Evaluation Report (AUER) – a report that was due in June 2019, that was intentionally withheld by Anne Ruston until Jan 2021, after this vote had taken place.
It remains, that not one member of the HoR or Senate who voted for this bill ever saw that evaluation and so much as glimpsed the data that showed horrendous Domestic Violence and Child Welfare in the AUER.
Not one of them saw or knew, that for 85.4% of people forced onto the program there had been no positive result; even worse than the 77% NPI from the Orima report. None of the wider impacts or any of the plethora of embarrassing non-results the AUER revealed were taken into consideration, at all.
Yet they voted to extend and expand the CDC despite no forward estimate’s costings being available, and not for publication clauses on all spending.
They voted knowing full well that people were suffering, becoming homeless and even ending their lives as a result of the impact of this policy on their mental and financial health.
They voted it through anyway, and with not one shred of evidence of policy accountability or efficacy ever being sighted at all.
And along with a raft of other in legislation instrument changes and expansion measures, in doing so, they removed the last of independent oversight from the entire CDC process; they removed innocent people’s statutory rights, and removed the last of protections for vulnerable payment nominees and those who had been exempted due to weekly payment exemptions rules, meaning that for the first time, the most disadvantaged and acutely at risk people in the Australian community, are now open targets for predatory private enterprise.
That lie told by Anne Ruston on this night, about the deals she had made with CA with the LNP was not the only lie on the night though.
Anne Ruston earlier claimed in her testimony that the entire BasicsCard legislation would apply and come across to protect people in the NT if they chose to ‘transition’ across to CDC claiming that transition was all just ‘ a matter of a technology change’.
This is not true and, on many levels, the least of which is the glaringly obvious and fundamental difference between the two policies; that anyone transitioning across will be subject to unaccountable Indue Ltd income management and control, not under accountable government run income management.
The reality today is that only those persons within the FRC controlled region of Cape York will have anything remotely like those pre-existing protections and obligations they had under BasicsCard legislation and no one else. Both NT and FRC’s Cape York region appear in the CDC legislation with no reference in that document to any BasicsCard legislation crossover or IM protections in place for the NT cohort who may choose to transfer between the two mandatory programs. This ‘hobson’s choice’ as Senator Wong aptly called it on the night, will leave transferee’s subject to a new and very different regime of compulsory income management than they have previously known.
The cashless debit card legislation, while being a compulsory third party income management program, is governed by independent legislation that is an express legislative exemption to the Social Security Act, making it a standalone program and not, to the best of our knowledge and research, included or even listed as being a program that falls within government’s overall Income Management ‘tree’ of programs and policies that BasicsCard does stem from. We know this, as under general IM and BasicsCard rules, there are several rules and obligations and limitations in place that are simply not offered to people on the “Indue card”.
These ongoing lies have already cost lives and they are the worst kind of lie because they are lies of omission that impact the innocent and most trusting and often, the least educated. As lies of omission they tell half truths, and leave out key details that completely alter the entire context of the information being given to people.
Omission lies are a truly deceptive, deceitful, and a dangerous political tactic that has been in place since the very beginning of the Cashless debit card process and you need only read the words of Ceduna “stakeholders” to see that for yourself, here.
If LNP and their allies now face a serious “trust” problem, and they clearly do, it is wholly because of the pre-existence of their “lie by omission” problem, proven through each heart-breaking CDC bill cycle in their tactics of desperation and their willingness to continue to deceive the Australia constituency and even their own party members and parliament colleagues. Perhaps like the boy who cried wolf, even if they are sincere in their recent protestant claims, no one remotely aware can trust them at their word. They are victims of their own deceptive ‘success’.
When the independent evaluation data clearly supports those who are speaking out and truth-telling, the thin veneer of lies presented to the press and public by this government is left with no leg to stand on and this naturally leaves LNP with an increasingly visible and obvious integrity problem.
Like most propaganda and forms of denial, lies of omission also have an end date, as more people even without effort on our part are beginning to see the same patterns and wake up to the facts and reality of what is really going on too.
Can we trust the LNP not to put age pensioners on cards?
This is a moot question and argument for the simple fact that people on Age pensions and people of pensionable age unable to get the Age pension (people with no birth certificates) are already on the mandatory cashless debit card in Cape York, right now, and they and all service pensioners, are also on the BasicsCards program right now too.
Further, people aged up to 67yrs are already on cards right now as well, in all current CDC “trial” zones except the Hinkler electorate zone. Only relatively recent changes to the age limit on Age pensions means they are not on that payment now.
Australian pensioners, like the rest of us, are just one bill, one backroom deal and one pen stroke away from being ‘captured’ by the card. And that is all it would take from here to advance inclusion of Age pension into the program in any location any time.
While having no desire at all, in fact a high resistance to creating a panic, we cannot and will not aid and abet LNP to allow anyone to avoid the reality of this risk, and in so doing, leave people sitting ducks, or idle in their comfortable bubbles of denial.
LNP have also cut the Age pension twice since coming into office and if you count indexation changes, they have already placed seniors travel concessions onto a cashless card with a company (Heritage) that is a Indue Ltd shareholder, and they have withheld the 900-page Audit commission report that recommended tightening seniors concessions even further. You don’t commission audit reports without intent.
Given the aged care sector was one of the first to be privatised (and see how that has turned out) we have no doubt this pattern of exploitation will continue with regards to Cashless debit cards.
Indeed, on the ground work to ‘encourage’ the elderly to sign up in current CDC trial sites is ongoing and indicative of their intention. We see the process of ‘inclusion’ as being already well underway.
In current trial sites, the same “reasoning” revealed just last week by LNP’s Dr Gillespie’s staff is being used right now and that is, that there are “no problems with the card” and it will be “good for their safety”.
You will note that no mention is ever made about why elders may be unsafe in their own communities in order to ‘need’ a card in the first place, so we view these pushes to get more pensioners volunteering now, as yet another LNP deflection from the impacts that cashless debit cards are having IN affected communities.
So the LNP clearly have a pattern of acting against the best interests of the elderly in this country and a pattern of using deceptive incremental tactics to fundamentally change pensioner rights and freedoms. They do not see our elders as a ‘protected’ group as much as some would like to think they do and that, if nothing else, is a reason for mistrust.
Can we trust Anne Ruston’s claim age pension won’t be included in any national roll out?
No. And for two reasons.
One, you need only ask Ceduna about their one year ‘targeted trial’ that is now six years long and a blanket measure imposed by force through deceit onto everyone without any assessment of individual needs to see what is said and what is done are two different animals.
LNP, lie. And they do it very well.
This entire policy has been rolled out in similar steamroll fashion to the Ceduna experience, and roll outs since 2016 show a practice of carefully crafted incrementalism is in place, that has seen mission creep after mission creep ‘justified’ and manipulated through the parliament in a series of backroom deals and sold to the ignorant public by Orwellian spin and extensive public money funded propaganda power.
The reality masked by LNP’s publicly funded propaganda is, that last two bills to pass the Senate expanding and extending this policy, passed only by one single vote, and solely due to the private deal making between single vote senators and the LNP. This policy has not passed on the programs merit, it has not passed on the evidence need or efficacy of the policy at all. Just backroom deals.
Secondly, Anne Ruston herself, though she’s not alone in LNP, is uniquely accustomed to and even fluent in lying by omission about this policy. So much so her heartbeat barely even raised a notch as she stood there and lied in Senate in December 2020, right in front of her colleagues that she claimed to respect and in front of the cameras feeding her lies to the Australian people.
A liar of such skill simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth to anyone, even herself.
While we don’t expect Age pension to end up in the next bill, it is fair to say that due to the temptation of the sums of money involved and LNP’s pattern of incremental mission creep on CDC, that we do genuinely feel it is only a matter of time they are included wider scale.
This is especially true if the LNP are re-elected, and that is a big IF we are each and all responsible for when the time comes. ALP say they will scrap it, LNP will expand it, those are the facts, and that is the simple choice we all have here and now.
It is highly unlikely no new CDC bills, including further Age pension expansion or not, will arrive before the next election. Unless that is, LNP do wish to commit political suicide which is a possibility as they appear tired and have created such a mess, they seem to want to be opposition again.
Given the push to change Medicare this week is something similar to what Howard did with Work Choices which he knew would see the end of their term then, it’s not a far fetch to assume LNP are done laying whatever groundwork they needed and want a rest now.
It is also entirely plausible that they will make some grand announcement excluding Age pensioners from the CDC as a whole, in attempt to curry the pensioner vote for the election, only to let that promise go at first opportunity as they have any mention of a ICAC.
We simply don’t know and we simply, can’t trust them either way.
What remains at the end of the day is the fact that under the Social Security Act governing this abusive policy, and under Vol2 Part 3D “Cashless Welfare Arrangements” Division 2 Section 124PD, “Definitions” of the Act, the Age Pension remains listed as a “restrictable payment” in the CDC legislation for the NT and Cape York. It is IN the Act as a mandatory payment.
While a caveat is in place for the NT (not Cape York) in their entry in the Act at this time, one that does remove age pensioners from the list of quarantined payment types there, if there was indeed no ongoing plan or intention to include any more age pensioners on the program as Anne has suggested this week, then the inclusion of Age Pension as a mandatory restrictable payment in the Act at all would simply not be necessary.
It would be far simpler and more genuine to have included special caveat for the FRC region/ Cape York under their proscribed entry in the Act and leave only voluntary participation clauses everywhere else. While this payment remains included as a mandatory restrictable payment in the legislation, Age pensioners everywhere remain at as much risk as we all are.
For now, at least, there is no immediate threat, to Age pensioners as there is no bill before Parliament at this time. Age pensioner concerns about what may come, especially given the legislation’s contents, are valid however, and ALP and Greens MP’s and Senators may have more insight into any impending risk than we do given our limited connections.
Until we see deliberate action from the LNP to move on CDC again, and one to include Age Pensions on cards more widely, we, as you, must simply remain on watch and we will all have to wait along with everyone else to see what their next moves are.
If we spot any advancement, we will post it. Be sure to check back with us and keep fighting this monstrous shameful racist classist policy everywhere you can.
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