'A Fundamentally Corrupt, Immoral System': Concerns Over $10,000 Cash Limit
And at least one expert warns the legislation -- which would see transactions of $10,000 or more punishable by up to two years in prison- - is an attack on people who want to avoid the banks for privacy reasons.
Sandra Nader, 64, is one of many Australians who keep large sums of cash at home.
While a lack of available data makes determining the true number of people storing cash under the bed or buried in the backyard impossible, anecdotal evidence is plentiful.
She told 10 daily she usually keeps between $2,000 and $10,000 in cash hidden on her property. Nader said many of her friends and relatives do the same thing.
Yet not even her close family members knows where she hides the money.
"I'm usually at home and don't travel much so it's safe and I hide it in a place no one can find," she told 10 daily.
She agreed it was old fashioned, but it's what she's used to. She also said it was easier to access her cash at home in an emergency rather than travel to the bank.
"They ask 100 questions now," she said.
"If you want to take out several thousand dollars in one go they want your licence, they want to know what you want it for, they want to know everything about you."
The stay-at-home mother says the saves money from cash gifts (which are frequent among her ethnic community), or when she has money left over from household bills.
"I feel the bank and government now just wants to know and control everything about your life. If it's my money, rightfully mine, what's their business?" Nader said.
The proposed laws tabled under the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill are designed to tackle the black market, applying to all major payments to businesses with an ABN for goods and services.
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the federal government decided to tackle cash payments after the Black Economy Taskforce found criminals were laundering money by purchasing high value goods such as cars, and using cash so as to remain undetected.
"As cash is largely untraceable, this makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to trace these activities," Sukkar said.
"The Government is sending a strong message to the community that using cash to avoid obligations and potentially engage in criminal activity is a serious matter that requires a level of deterrence."
While Pauline Hanson and Bob Katter have publicly stated they'll be voting against the bill for privacy reasons -- the latter likened it to George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 -- it looks like Labor may support the bill, with shadow assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones saying the bar was "very, very high" for the party to vote against it.
"I don't know the last time you used cash to buy anything, but the answer from me is never," Jones told the ABC.
Australia is transitioning into a cashless society, a point noted by both the authors of the Black Economy Taskforce and market analyst firm East & Partners, which predicted in 2017 that cash would account for less than two percent of transactions by 2022.
But it ignores the broader experience of Australians keeping cash at home for privacy, not criminal reasons -- many of whom skew older or come from immigrant backgrounds. (10 daily heard the story of one man who, after his father's death, had to dig under the house to find his life's savings.)
"Cash gives you freedom to do what you want with your own money, whatever you want to do [within the law]," John Adams, an economist and former adviser to Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos, told 10 daily.
"What this basically does is say that if you want to use cash above a certain limit, the government is going to say, there's only certain ways you can do this transaction."
He gave examples of people wishing to organisations privately without a concern for their reputation, or simply not wanting the government to know what they own, as reasons for avoiding electronic transfers.
"They might just want to keep it confidential for a whole host of reasons," he said.
He added that people should be even more reluctant to be forced into using banks following the Royal Commission, which exposed widespread moral corruption in the industry.
"The banks have screwed everyone over across the country, and yet we have our government and the Reserve Bank, and [regulatory authority] APRA, and all these other official bodies basically trying to push more and more Australians and their money into a system which has been exposed to be fundamentally corrupt and fundamentally immoral," he said.
He also warns that the "real agenda" of this policy is to help usher in negative interest rates, reportedly being considered by the Reserve Bank of Australia in the wake of historic interest rate lows.
"If you're being charged a fee to have your money in the bank, your natural reaction is, well, I'm gonna take the physical cash, because I'm paying nothing to the bank," John said
"And this is where the economists have said, well, by people pulling cash out of the banking system, this is going to undermine this whole policy of negative interest rates -- therefore, we need to live by cash."
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