Cashless Debit Cards: Flawed but Here, Anyway By James Reed

     The cashless debit card has numerus dangers, but the Feds are pressing ahead with it anyway, despite massive objections mounted through numerous sources:

“It would be nice if the “facts” being thrown around in the debate over the Cashless Debit Card were peer-reviewed, or even just evidence-based. Instead, there are anecdotes. And it’s these that are being used to justify the government’s decision to spend A$128.8 million over four years continuing the existing trial of the cashless debit card in five sites in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia and extending it to Cape York and all of the Northern Territory. The extension will lift the number of people on the card from 11,000 to 33,000. Most will be Indigenous people - its disproportionate targeting has already attracted the attention of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the Human Rights Commission. The cashless card was recommended to Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a report from mining billionaire Andrew Forrest in 2014. He initially called it the “Healthy Welfare Card”. It wasn’t a new idea. Some A$1 billion dollars had already been spent on income management programs in the past, many of which had failed to meet their stated objectives.

It’s been tried before
The 2007 Basics Card. AAP
The biggest was the Basics Card introduced as part of the 2007 Northern Territory Emergency Response (the “Intervention”) which was only made possible through the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. Research published by the Australian Research Council funded Life Course Centre of Excellence found its introduction was correlated with negative impacts on children, including reductions in birth weight and school attendance.
It points to several possible explanations, including increased stress on mothers, disrupted financial arrangements within households, and confusion about how to access funds. The government has not addressed these serious issues. Instead, it now seeks to place those who have been left on the basics card for over ten years now, on to the cashless debit card.

What was ‘Basics’ has become ‘Indue’
The “Indue” Cashless Debit Card trials underway since 2016 direct 80% of each payment to the card (Forrest asked for 100%) where it can only be spent on things such as food, clothes, health items and hygiene products. Purchases of alcohol and withdrawals of cash are not permitted. The trials are compulsorily for everyone living in the trial sites receiving a disability, parenting, carer, unemployment or youth allowance payment. My own research in the East Kimberley found it makes those people’s lives harder. Those targeted are a broad group needing support for a broad range of reasons, yet all are treated as if they have issues with alcohol or drugs or gambling. Most of the people on it do indeed have a common problem: that is trying to survive on meagre payments in remote environments with a chronically low supply of jobs. Of all the claims made for the card, the least believable is that it gets its users into jobs.

What it does do is limit access to cash needed for day to day-to-day living. It makes it hard to buy second-hand goods, transport and (at some outlets) food, and can make living more expensive. For anyone actually struggling with addiction, it can’t substitute for treatment, a concern raised by medical specialists. While the government says the trials have been community-led, in reality consultation has been limited to a small group of people not subject to the card. When leaders in the East Kimberley who had agreed to the card withdrew their support, the government continued with the trial.

Its success has not been established
In addition to relaying on anecdotes, 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. Profiting from the Cashless Debit Card has been Indue, a private company whose deputy chairman up until 2013 is now the present President of the National Party, Larry Anthony. Indue’s involvement is helping to create a two tiered banking system in which most people have a choice of financial providers, but those subject to the card are restricted to one, which provides a very different product to the others.
Indue is also not a member of the Australian Banking Association, and so is not bound by the consumer protection provisions of its Banking Code of Practice. The inquiry is due to report next week. Given the expensive and harmful consequences of the trial, it ought to find the extension is not justified. There are better ways to spend $128.8 million that would actually help vulnerable Australians.”

     A great article, but unfortunately the Feds are not listening to these sorts of objections. Probably there is not much that can be done at this late stage to stop this. It will come in, and produce yet more chaos and misery. And things will continue the spiral down. But, people, the few that fight from both sides of the political fence, did what they could, with what they had. Can I fit this one in?  Here is a leading environmental guru delivering a massive critique of so-called renewable energy, solar and wind etc, and the threats made to birds and the like, which get sliced and diced by the rotors of the wind things, and cooked by the solar panels.

     Can I also fit this one in? I just learnt about the “bugman,” those mainstream people who consume, care not about what happens so long as they consume, then die and rot. An eloquent description is as follows:

“Not to be confused with the gigantic insect?—?the alienated man?—?of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the small-souled bugman is very much a ‘well-adjusted’, fully integrated neuron in today’s neoliberalist techno-corporate hive mind. A consequence of a perilously overpopulated, brutally capitalistic, shamelessly hedonistic, morally decaying society, the humble bugman has come to define an age of technological dystopia in which everyone has everything?—?their gadgets, their fast foods, their fashion accessories?—?but somehow everyone also has nothing?—?no community, no natural spirit, no substance of mind. He is a zombified consumer, an emasculated wage slave, a vessel emptied of meaning and refilled with plastic, pixels and silicone. He is what a sterile corporate wasteland spews out. Millions of him, almost exact replicas who are relentlessly told they are unique by clever marketers, and who believe it. He is a personality defined by brands, a blue-checkmarked Twitter user. Bugmen are what we get when a culture is infantilized, watered down and stripped of the very intellectual, philosophical and honourable fibre that once made it great. Totally dependent on the compromised support of his nanny state and high-tech devices, the bugman has been reduced to the status of a domestic animal. A 200-pound child. And like a child, the bugman’s shallowness keeps him malleable to the fleeting whims and fads of a degenerate, smartphone-addicted, dopamine-hooked society. He bases his identity on passing trends that to him appear profound, priding himself on being a ‘step ahead’ of his peers?—?an ‘early adopter’?—?not realizing it’s the marketer who’s always a step ahead of him. He is the millennial test subject, the lab rat brand loyalty experts are paid $20,000 an hour to pigeonhole. First in line for the latest Apple iPhone, he actively supports the unchecked rise of AI and notions of planetary relocation.

Things didn’t always look so bleak for the bugman. He grew up in fortunate circumstances. Middle-class parents who raised him well, sent him to a good college. Oversocialization afforded him effortless acceptance into a mentally sick civilization, but sorely missing, unbeknownst to him, was the lack of any meaningful struggle; the grueling initiations that turn boys into men. His mental development had been stunted in the real sense at the expense of engineering a successful and painless assimilation into a clown world fueled by idiocy, deception and frivolity. The bugman now occupies one of two living situations. One, the city bugman lives atop, beneath and besides his fellow bugs in what is an actual human-scale bug colony, hence the name. Two, the suburban bugman living just as unnaturally and miserably, lined up in careful symmetry among neighbours he will never know and trees that will never grow, house by house, street by street, as far as the eye can see. The deliberate draining of purpose and passion from the bugman’s soul made it easy to assign him without complaint to a vapid, good-boy ‘job’ and a ‘career’ that does little but prop up the demented corporatist structure. He is a willing cog in the grinding bs machine?—?a marketer, an analyst, a ‘project manager’?—?or has perhaps handed his life over to preserving the insanity of the state by becoming a lawyer or a bureaucrat. Worse yet, he gobbled up the STEM dream sold by grubby toy merchants, dooming himself to an existence of zeroes and ones. Zero purpose. One sad bugman. So cowed by his masters, the bugman is fiercely loyal to faceless corporations in what appears to be a society-wide occurrence of Stockholm syndrome. Terrified of being exposed as the fraud that he is, he hands over his mind to be reshaped like putty until it fits the robotic cubicle farm mould. Before long he is sending out 150 emails a day in which he promises to “touch base” and “leverage the data”. He’ll climb the imaginary ladder, all the while nagged by a vague sense of emptiness and a dormant rage that might see him off to an early grave.”

     Nicely put, eh? And, so true, sadly us.



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Tuesday, 16 July 2024

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