Statements by Senators – Financial Transactions

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (13:25): I have some great news to share with the Australian people. Your actions are making an impact; cash is coming back. New figures from the RBA show that withdrawals from ATMs have been rising. They were up 1.6 per cent in May and June this year. ATM withdrawals have halved in the past decade but have remained steady since 2021. The tide has, hopefully, turned, and people may be starting to realise the importance of cash. Electronic transactions are not free—far from it. Jason Bryce from Cash Welcome says that average households could be paying about $1,500 a year in card surcharges if they tap their phone or their card for everything. Every time you transact, the banks take a cut. The banksters are happy as a pig in you-know-what. Their pockets are full, while the working class wonder where all their money has gone.

Too many in this place believe that a cashless society will be convenient. I would argue that the transition to a wholly digital and cashless economy is dangerous and something that we should resist, as convenience always comes at a cost. A cashless society, where there is no cash at all, will disadvantage the elderly, many of whom still rely on cash for their daily transactions. It will disadvantage those living in remote communities who lack access to digital financial services. It will disadvantage victims of abuse, who might have limited access to online financial services. It will disadvantage people in emergency situations where the internet is knocked out, as cash would obviously allow people to continue to trade.

There are other considerations, such as: how do you teach kids the value of money when money is basically invisible? Cash drives community. What will become of markets, garage sales, honesty boxes and charity buckets—even Facebook Marketplace and the ability for a young entrepreneur to mow a neighbour’s lawn for 10 bucks? Arguably worst of all, digital banking makes people wholly trackable and hackable by the states. Do we really want an economy in which every transaction is tracked? Do we really want to live in a world in which someone can’t buy a pencil without the government and the big banks potentially knowing about it? One person’s transparency is another’s surveillance. Do we really want a society in which our ID and assets could be stripped from us with a single keystroke? Is this really how we will define safety?

There are those who may well push for us to eliminate cash. Let’s make sure that their calls fall on deaf ears. In this place, we do not represent the global elites and their global financial schemes. We represent mums, dads, isolated workers, the elderly and the disadvantaged. We represent people who should be free to trade without the all-seeing eye of the state scrutinising every purchase. We represent freedom, and cash is freedom. I say to the Australian people: continue to use your cash. Take out a little bit more next week, perhaps, and help to preserve this freedom. To the businesses out there: I urge you to accept cash. Cash is, of course, legal tender, and you will lose business if you refuse. I urge the government to show their support for freedom by showing support for cash.