CASHLESS CARD: Card supporter Federal Member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt, at the launch of cashless card in Hinkler.
CASHLESS CARD: Card supporter Federal Member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt, at the launch of cashless card in Hinkler.

UN questions cashless cards

AUSTRALIA’S use of cashless cards and ‘Robodebt’ could be unethical as highlighted in a new report from the United Nations.

The report by UN extreme poverty and human rights expert Philip Alston focused on digital welfare worldwide and Australia was consistently used as an example when highlighting issues with the system.

Special Rapporteur Mr Alton focused on the unethical problems surrounding cashless cards with issues including shame from use and potential data mining.

“When such cards are clearly recognisable as welfare-related, users have expressed feelings of disempowerment, embarrassment and shame, a problem exacerbated when the users come from communities long accustomed to exclusion,” the report said.

“Electronic cards enable monitoring and surveillance of behavioural data by welfare authorities and private actors, thus raising important human rights concerns.”

“Beneficiaries often face difficulties accessing and fully utilising their right to social security.”

The report highlighted that it is all too common the legality of the digital welfare systems is not ensured.

“One of the most surprising characteristics of too many important digital welfare state initiatives is a lack of attention to the importance of ensuring legality.”

“Many examples have been drawn to the Special Rapporteur’s attention, including: the Australian Government’s online compliance…”

Australia’s use of robo debt was also exemplified in the report as an unstable debt collection system.

“Special Rapporteur also received information about prominent examples of system errors or failures that generated major problems for large numbers of beneficiaries.”

“These included the ‘Robodebt’ fiasco in Australia...”

Mr Alton said the digital welfare system needs to be re-evaluated.

“The process is commonly referred to as ‘digital transformation’ by governments and the tech consultancies that advise them, but this somewhat neutral term should not be permitted to conceal the revolutionary, politically-driven, character of many such innovations,” Mr Alton said.

The report was presented to the General Assembly earlier today,