The Coalition's war on cash is suspiciously totalitarian

May 14, 2018

A research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs has backed senator Cory Bernardi's concerns about the budget-night announcement that the Coalition will outlaw large cash payments.

In its Budget, the Coalition have declared that any cash payment over $10,000 will be automatically illegal. The measure is said to be designed to target the 'black economy' - largely, transactions designed to avoid paying tax.

The Australian Financial Review newspaper reported late last week that the cash payment ban could be set at a lower limit after further consultation. This lent credence to Senator Bernardi's warning that the government would soon move the scale downwards to - ultimately - ban cash payments altogether. Every step in this direction, he warned, threatened Australians' privacy.

Writing in the Fairfax press today including the Sydney Morning Herald, IPA research fellow Matthew Lesh echoed Senator Bernardi's concerns, warning that the move was a step towards totalitarianism.

Lesh warned: "The intention of the cash ban is to create an accessible digital record of transactions that government can monitor. This establishes a creepy precedent, foreshadowing a future in which you are only allowed to make purchases that Big Brother can watch. If the government should be able to track our transactions why stop at $10,000? Why not $5000? Why not, as some commentators have proposed, $0?"

Lesh goes on to envision a cashless society with little or no privacy. "In the long-run, a cashless society would immensely empower the state, which could use our spending habits to reward and punish certain behaviour, or introduce taxes on savings. Imagine a future in which because you spend "too much" on unhealthy food, the government charges you higher taxes; or because you don't have a gym membership you have to pay a higher Medicare surcharge."

The IPA advocates - as does Australian Conservatives - that lower taxes will result in a smaller 'black' economy, as lower taxes diminish the incentives to avoid high taxes. Lesh writes "Countries with higher taxes and more regulation are plagued by a larger black economy and corruption."

To read the full opinion piece, click here

To see Senator Bernardi's comments on Budget Night on the Sky News Australia channel, watch below.

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