Let's talk: Is a cashless, Government-controlled welfare card really fair?

The best and worst ways you can pay for those Christmas gifts.

On Wednesday evening, the Life Matters show on the ABC ran a segment on the proposed ‘cashless welfare card’ that has had everyone talking. When we say everyone, we really mean it. So today we want to know, do you think it’s fair?

Ad. Article continues below.

The ABC made this post on their Facebook page and it’s had more engagements than we’ve seen on the ABC in a long time. The thing is, Australia seems incredibly divided. The card was proposed as an alternative payment system for Centrelink payments. Currently, welfare recipients can use the funds to buy anything they choose like a normal income. However there is increasing concern about people on welfare using their money to buy alcohol, drugs and gamble.

This card would completely stop all unnecessary and harmful purchases and would only be available at certain retailers.

There’s been some very interesting arguments on both sides that Pedestrian.tv gathered up including:

  • Denying certain things to certain people is a slippery slope – could the ban of these things lead to further bans later on for inappropriate reasons? For example, banning certain types of food because they are seen as ‘luxury items’?
  • Are cigarettes also banned?
  • Are prescription drugs banned? Or are certain prescription drugs banned?
  • What about cardholders with addictions? Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol (or any kind of) addiction can sometimes include destructive actions or antisocial behaviour, which may make things worse for the person.
  • People from lower socio-economic areas and rural areas are more likely to have alcohol and drug addictions, from 2012 statistics. Doesn’t the card system negatively affect them to a larger extent, just because of where they live?
  • In reference to ‘The Prohibition‘, banning items has never really worked, because people still find ways to access them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the issues of alcohol, drug and gambling addictions, and provide more support and resources to those suffering?
  • America’s SNAP ‘food stamp’ system often leads to trading ‘essential’ items for drugs and alcohol – wouldn’t the implementation of a similar system here lead to the same thing?
  • How on earth would someone buy drugs with a card anyway?
  • There are certain things (especially in schools, such as mufti days and excursions) that have to be paid in cash. What is a family supposed to do in that situation?
  • Would cardholders be limited in where they shopped? Would only major shops and companies accept the card?
  • If so, wouldn’t this affect local and small businesses, who were recently singled out for more support in the Federal Budget?
  • If so, what if someone needed to buy a specialty item? For example, a necessary health item from a smaller shop?
  • What if someone needed to buy a gift?
  • What about younger cardholders – wouldn’t this card affect their ability to manage money later in life?
  • Isn’t determining the social class of someone with a card degrading?

So there’s a big debate that Australia needs to have before this can go anywhere.

Today tell us, what do you think? Should the card be introduced? Do you think it’s a good initiative or do you think that people should have freedom, no matter their dependence on the government? Share your thoughts in the comments below…