Politics Analysis

#FACT — It's not Labor that needs to stop frightening pensioners

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(Image by Dan Jensen)

Fears that the cashless debit card will be implemented for all income recipients across the board, including those on the age pension, appear to originate from the Government’s own information and statements.

The Prime Minister has labelled the Opposition’s warnings about the rollout of the card for pensioners as “a despicable lie” and demanded that “the Labor Party should stop frightening pensioners”.

But there is every reason to suspect that, just like Medicare, for example, the Morrison Government’s assurances that it does not intend to implement the cashless welfare card for all income recipients should not be trusted.

At two previous elections, the Labor Opposition was accused of (among other things) creating an unwarranted scare campaign about Medicare, dubbed “Mediscare”. The possibility that the national health scheme would be cut by the Federal Government and systematically “reconfigured” until fewer and fewer services were available was flatly denied by Scott Morrison and his then Health Minister Greg Hunt.

However, just like the Coalition’s assurances that there would be no cuts to the aged pension, education and the ABC, or, that there would be a tangible and achievable plan in place to combat climate change, the opposite actually happened.

As IA has reported, Medicare benefits on key procedures and other vitally important services have since been cut and many others dispensed with altogether. A similar overhaul of prescriptions on the PBS scheme has rendered a number of medications unaffordable. To add insult to injury, this situation has quietly but deliberately put additional pressures on families when Australia’s cost of living has skyrocketed and wages have remained static.

Where is the media outrage?

Instead, when there are questions about further possible human rights abuse on the part of the Federal Government, those that have raised concerns are accused of scare campaigns and then subjected to questionable fact-checking by media organisations while the Government's record of denial and obfuscation raises hardly an eyebrow.

Without spending too much time on the establishment media’s amnesia with regard to this Government compared to its lynch-mob-like obsession with the Labor Party, let’s just cast our minds back to the “death tax” scare waged against Labor at the last election, which has now resurfaced. Or the carbon tax panic campaign conducted against the previous Labor Government, which has also re-emerged.

For the purposes of “balance”, then, we intend to conduct our own fact-check on the Morrison Government's cashless debit card plans. This is because, if the Opposition’s claims are proven to be baseless, then nothing is lost. However, if Labor’s claims have merit, a lot may vanish indeed — not least of these losses, the dignity and quality of life of older Australians.

Nothing demonstrates the cruelty of which this Government is capable than the disgraceful human rights abomination of Robodebt, which illegally robbed victims of their dignity — a scheme instigated and implemented with manic determination by this Federal Government, under Morrison. The Government also insisted that Robodebt was legitimate but it was later found to be unlawful by the Federal Court.

During the campaign trail, the PM has also flatly denied that the cashless welfare card may be rolled out for all income recipients.

Labor reiterated its position today, with a spokesperson for Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese telling IA:

We make no apologies for highlighting this issue. 

 

Labor will abolish the cashless debit card. 

 

The Government will keep it, and they have talked about expanding it. If they were serious [about exempting age pensioners], what they would do is get rid of the cashless debit card.’

And so, in the fact-checking spirit of the establishment media, Independent Australia has prepared its own fact check report to establish whether Labor’s suggestion is “a despicable lie” or a likely eventuality.

FACT #1

The cashless welfare card is a demeaning, patriarchal scheme that strips recipients of their dignity and controls how they can and cannot spend their own money.

FACT #2

Scott Morrison has said the following about the age pension:

"Australians can forget about the age pension when they retire."

And also:

"The age pension [is] not an entitlement for all…but a welfare payment."

FACT #3

Despite assurances to the contrary, as Treasurer, Scott Morrison implemented cuts ($1 billion from pensioner concessions) to the age pension in 2014 and 2015 (for approximately 370,000 pensioners by as much as $12,000 a year by changing the pension assets test).

FACT #4

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston clearly stated:

"We're seeking, as I said, put all income management onto the universal platform, which is the cashless debit card."

FACT #5

And here is the official Department of Social Services website link to the above Anne Ruston doorstop interview transcript.

FACT #6

Some of the people that have already been forced onto the cashless card are age pensioners.

FACT #7 - FACT #10

(See the full editorial here.)

FACT #11

The private organisation that administers the cashless debit card, recipients of which receive approximately $15,000 per year, receives an estimated $10,000 per recipient of the scheme.

FACT #12

We do not have many details on the private company, Indue, that implements and profits from the cashless card, but we do know its deputy chairman until 2013, Larry Anthony, a longtime lobbyist for the scheme, is now the President of the National Party. He is also still a director of the SAS Group — the lobbying firm for Indue.

FACT #13

In defence of the privatised scheme:

'...the Government continues to cite a widely condemned report by Orima Research. Among others, the Australian National Audit Office found this report was inadequate to draw any conclusions from.’

FACT #14 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's relationship with the truth is tenuous at best. 

FACT #15

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently gloated about the cashless welfare card, asking:

'Do you think the Labor Party would have come up with the cashless Debit card?'

FACT-CHECK CONCLUSION

Given the Government's own comments, its commitment to the full implementation of the cashless debit card for all government income recipients and its abysmal record of broken promises, it is our contention that this scheme may become a reality for those on disability payments, single parents, age pensioners and everyone in between. 

Dignity, according to the Coalition, is not an entitlement, but a privilege.

This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the IA weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

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