The Guardian • Issue #2010


Cashless debit card not meeting “intended objectives”

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2010

With the Morrison government gone, parliament has an opportunity to rectify many of the grave distresses that Morrison and Co. placed on the Australian working class.

One of the first problems the Albanese government seeks to fix is Australia’s welfare system and it has received an impetus from the Auditor General.

According to a derisive report coming out of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), the Department of Social Services had “not demonstrated that the [cashless debit card] (CDC) program is meeting its intended objectives.”

The cardless debit card program has been criticised since trials began in 2016 under the former Coalition government. The program quarantines eighty per cent of welfare payments onto a debit card which cannot withdrawn.

Many qualified the CDC program as paternalistic, restricting the ability of recipients to use their payments to their discretion in financing their life. For the Coalition, such restrictions were aimed at addressing issues related to alcohol, drug addiction, and gambling. However, these restrictions have had other consequences.

According to the ABC, one such recipient, Gloria Smith who cares for her son born with a disability wanted to give him money for his birthday but because of the card couldn’t: “My son’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and I was going to give him $100 for his birthday and I can’t do that now because it’s stuck on this card.”

Many also criticised the racist nature of the CDC program with the card being trialled in areas with larger Indigenous populations. While this was denied by the former government, the program was first proposed “as a key recommendation in mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s Review of Indigenous Training and Employment” (The Conversation). As a result, the lives of many Indigenous people, such as Kalgoorlie woman Barbara Clinch who could not “make repayments for a recent bank loan because the remaining twenty per cent of her welfare paid into her bank account does not cover them” (ABC).

The ANAO also found that “Internal performance measurement and monitoring processes for the CDC program are not effective,” further stating that while “monitoring data exists, […] it is not used to provide a clear view of program performance due to limited performance measures and no targets.”

Thankfully, the Albanese government, as part of their election promise, “pledged to scrap the cashless debit card and all forms of income management as compulsory schemes” flagging it “would first consult with affected communities” (Guardian (UK)).

However, the failure of such a program is not because of some flaw inside the design but the design itself. The CDC was an ideologically driven program designed by Australia’s ruling class to tell its poorest and most vulnerable citizens how it’s meant to spend its money. Dehumanising the working class under the guise of “responsible governance”. Luckily this program – like the government that initiated it – will be a thing of the past.

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