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Government’s cashless-debit scheme with big banks is a shameless attempt to distract from need for Newstart increase

The Australian Council of Social Service has criticised the Government’s announcement today that it is working with the big four banks on a scheme to expand the cashless debit card nationwide, despite opposition to the card in the Senate.

“This is a shameless attempt to distract from the mounting, widespread support for Newstart to be raised after 26 years without a real increase,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

“This Card is a nasty invasion of privacy. It’s unnecessary, expensive, stigmatising and impractical, making it harder for people to buy from op-shops, buy second-hand furniture, rent in shared accommodation or to provide children with money for school activities.

“People struggling on social security know better than most about budgeting and don’t need the Federal Government to teach them. $40 a day is simply not enough to get by. Our survey of people on Newstart found people were regularly having to skip meals, and rely on cheap foods such as tinned food and porridge. People use electricity extremely sparingly – they report showering only once a week and only buying food that doesn’t require refrigeration.

“The cashless debit card costs thousands per person to administer. This is a waste of money going to the big banks. These public funds should be going towards increasing Newstart.

“Many people feel humiliated when they have to pay with the card. The card compounds the sense of shame many people feel about being unemployed when they are doing all they can to find paid work in today’s competitive job market with only one job available for every eight people looking.

“Instead of forcing people on to stigmatising cashless debit cards, we need our political leaders to act to increase Newstart and to improve employment services to help people get paid work.

“We’re urging the Senate to block any move by the Government to expand the cashless debit card and thank those senators who’ve visited communities subjected to the cards and have heard people’s concerns,” Dr Goldie said.