The government is expanding its cashless debit card program into parts of Queensland. This scheme mandates that 80% of a recipient’s welfare payment is put onto a cashless debit card. The card can only be used at certain stores and greatly restricts purchasing options.
The policy originated from the BasicsCard that was used in the Northern Territory Intervention. This experiment was riddled with problems but the government continues to push cashless welfare as a way of demonising the unemployed.
According to the Unemployed Workers Union there is only one job for every fifteen job seekers. While it is not the fault of the unemployed that there are not enough jobs to go around, they are being punished.
The government claims the card helps people. In reality the cashless welfare card makes securing a job, learning a skill and participating in society much more difficult.
Stores that sell groceries, and also sell alcohol or lottery tickets, will have to make special arrangements with the Department of Social Services to be able to accept the card. Many will not bother with the red tape, which can force people to have to travel further for basic amenities.
The cashless debit card cannot be used to repay a loan with a mainstream bank. A special arrangement has to be made with a ‘support centre’, which will not be located close to everyone on the scheme.
The major supermarket chains do accept the card which means they are likely to benefit from increased sales. This set up provides a means for them to siphon money from the poor to their rich shareholders.
Socialists say that if the system cannot provide enough jobs, it must provide people with the means to live. This means decent welfare provisions that people can use as they please.
Anyone unable to work should be paid a living wage. The money to fund this exists and could come from the taxing the top end of town at a much higher rate.
But a socialist government would go much further. Thousands of jobs could be created by building the houses and infrastructure that communities need.
To make this possible public ownership and democratic planning needs to be introduced. Then unemployment could be ended and no one would be forced to live in poverty.
By Jason McNally