In a bold stand against the growing trend toward a cashless society, Federal MP Bob Katter has refused to stand down when his $50 note was rejected at a cafe in Parliament House.
Katter, the founder of Katter’s Australian Party, was left fuming after a staff member at the Parliament House cafe refused to accept his cash for lunch. Undeterred, he promptly demanded the manager review the legalities of such a refusal, insisting that it was illegal not to accept cash as it is considered legal tender.
The incident has reignited the debate surrounding the decline of physical money as a preferred method of payment and the potential ramifications of a cashless future.
Speaking to Sky News Australia on Wednesday, February 7 Katter recounted the confrontation, stressing the broader issues at stake.
“She (staff member) said ‘we don’t accept cash’ and I said ‘well, too bad for you, you have too, it’s legal tender, and it’s illegal for you to not accept cash’,” Katter said.
“We’ve had a lot of anti-cash rallies in Queensland… If you have a cashless society, the banks control your life.”
Katter went on to express concern over the increasing reliance on digital transactions
“You’re not able to buy a loaf of bread without permission from the bank, it is bad enough now but it will be infinitely worse,” he said.
“If you have a cashless society, you’re in big trouble.”
Despite initially refusing to accept his cash, Katter stood firm, demanding that the café adhere to the law.
“I said ‘no I will stand here and you’ll accept this legal tender, if you don’t you’re breaking the law’ and so the manager came down, he ran off and came back and said ‘yeah it is the law, we do have to accept cash’,” he said.
While some such as Katter are still pushing back against the move to a cashless society, the shift is seemingly happening much faster than expected with RMIT associate professor in finance, Dr. Angel Zhong pointing out that we could be doing away with cash by the end of the decade.
“The shift towards a cashless society in Australia isn’t just a possibility, it’s already well underway,” Zhong explained in a piece for The Conversation.
“The convenience of digital transactions has become irresistible for consumers and businesses and has led to the sector eclipsing traditional payment methods.”
A recent report from the Australian Banking Association shed light on the fast-growing popularity of digital payments.
Payments through digital wallets on smartphones and watches have surged from $746 million in 2018 to over $93 billion in 2022. Cash now makes up only 13 per cent of payments in Australia, down from 70 per cent in 2007.
Digital wallets are a hit across age groups, with two-thirds of Australians aged 18 to 29 making purchases using them. Surprisingly, about 40 per cent of Australians feel comfortable leaving home without physical wallets or cards, as long as they have their mobile devices with digital wallets.
Despite the digital shift, some reassurance comes from experts like Zhong, who emphasises that cash won’t vanish entirely.
“It doesn’t mean that there’s no bank notes at all. No one should be panicking that your banknotes will no longer carry value,” she told Nine News.
“If you look at the statistics about banknotes in circulation, it actually remains at around 20 per cent, according to the report, over the years.
“The meaning of cashless society is more about the way that we transact, it adds to the convenience of our day-to-day lives.
“There is always a place for cash but the majority will be making payments with digital wallets.”