The latest plan is a new low: the cashless pension card. Eighty per cent of a person's pension would be put on this privatised card. The government and a private company would control when, where and how pensioners can spend their own money, what kinds of shops they can shop in and what they can buy in those shops. They've even got a secret technology working group committee with the big banks, Australia Post and all the big retailers, trying to work out how they can do product-level blocking to control exactly which products people could buy. It's disgraceful.
Pensioners would only be able to shop at shops approved by the government. There wouldn't be enough cash to go to the Dandenong Market in my electorate and buy cheap food—which is how people survive—buy second-hand goods off the internet and give a bit of money to the grandkids. There would be no meals at the local RSL. A private company would see how much people spend, how much they have in their account and what they buy.
This is privatisation by the Liberals of the social security system. They've already wasted $70 million of taxpayer money on this. That's $5,200 for every card that's been issued so far, with a lot more to come. This is going to be a cash bonanza for the private company, and the government wants to put it out wider.
At one point I heard the minister yell out, 'It's a scare campaign.' Government members try and scurry away from this and deny it. Well, the Prime Minister said himself that the pension is a welfare payment. A headline on Sky News said the Prime Minister was 'eyeing a national rollout of the cashless debit card'. The minister said 'We are seeking to put all income management onto the universal platform ... the cashless debit card.'
The government introduced legislation into this House last year that would force aged pensioners onto the card and they want to pretend that they didn't do it. The consequences are horrendous. There are shocking reports of people whose rent hasn't been paid and their utilities haven't been paid. There is the shocking tale from the member for Gilmore of a woman who literally had to ring the private company to beg for permission to be able to shop at a shop that sold a bra the right size for her, and then she had to send photos of it in for the audit. Disgraceful!
There is a Liberal agenda to expand this scheme. Labor will fight the government's plan. A Labor government will scrap this scheme. We'll cancel the contract with the private company and we will repeal the legislation so this cannot happen again. We will fight privatisation.
As I said, it comes after eight years of attacks at every budget. Budget after budget, the Liberals attack aged pensioners. Last year, they froze the pension—not even a 5c increase. They refused to index the deeming rates, they tried to cut the energy supplement, and they did a dodgy deal with the Greens political party to kick 370,000 part-pensioners off the pension, which was a $12,000 loss for many part-pensioners. We will fight them every step of the way.