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Proposed New Laws Mean You'll Be Sent To Jail For Spending $10,000 Cash

Fears of government control have grown in response to proposed laws that would limit the use of cash in Australia. 

The proposed laws tabled under the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill would see Australians face two-year jail sentences and up to $25,200 in fines if cash transactions between business and individuals exceed $10,000.

The laws would apply to all payments of more than $10,000 made to businesses with an Australian Business Number (ABN) for goods and services including purchases like houses, boats, cars or building renovations.

The laws will not apply to private transactions between individuals with no ABN.

The move was announced by the federal government in the 2018/19 Budget as part of the Black Economy Taskforce to combat tax evasion, money laundering and other related crimes.

Members of the public would be able to report suspicious behaviour via a designated Black Economy Hotline, also announced in the 2018/19 Budget.

Cash transactions could be limited to $10,000. Photo: Getty Images.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was Treasurer when the proposed laws were announced as part of the government's $50 billion crackdown on the black economy. It was announced in 2018 that the government would employ specialised "mobile strike teams" to carry out the monitoring of cash payments.

At the time, the government said these laws would encourage the transition to a digital society.

If passed, the Bill will come into effect on January 1, 2020.

Then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison. Photo: Getty Images.
Concerns Over Government Control From Opposition Parties

Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party has already said it will vote against the  Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill.

Pauline Hanson posted a statement on her Facebook page saying she was against the Bill because the proposed laws attack citizens' right to free trade of goods.

"Effectively, if you are a person who keeps cash and uses it to buy a new small car, for example, you will face the real threat of 2 years in jail and a fine that would likely exceed the value of the vehicle," Hanson wrote on Facebook.

Katter's Australia Party Leader Bob Katter has also slammed the Bill labelling it a "danger to our freedom greater than the danger through terrorism”.

Katter likened the Bill to George Orwell's novel 1984, saying the law violates a person's right to privacy.

Bob Katter has likened the proposed laws to George Orwell's 1984. Photo: Getty Images.

“The Government will argue that this is the one and only initiative that they will implement to eliminate the black economy however, once the bill is introduced and passed, they will have the flexibility to dictate many more amendments to the law. It will give the police the power to control your cash over $10,000," Katter said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Once the legislation is in place, they have opened the doors to regulate and change as they see fit."

A Greens Treasury spokesperson confirmed to 10 daily the party does not have an official position regarding the Bill at this stage. The Labor Party also hasn't made a public statement regarding the proposed laws.

Scathing Backlash On Social Media

There's also been concern from members of the public about the amount of power and control these laws could afford big banks and the government.

Reaction on social media has been scathing, with questions surrounding consent and negative interest being raised.

"Insane: I looks like another law to protect banks," one user commented on Twitter.

READ MORE: People Are More Likely To Return A Wallet With Cash In It: Study

Concerns about government control over cash have been expressed. Photo: Getty Images.

"Disgusting, leave us alone, I don’t believe we should be allowing any more govt control and further reduction in freedoms. Whatever happened to consent of the governed. I do not consent to this," another wrote.

"I agree. This is what we get after the banking royal commission. Proposed laws to force people to use bank transactions. This is absolutely ludicrous," someone else remarked.

Australia Becoming More And More Cashless

In the Black Market Taskforce Final Report published in October 2017stated digital transactions leave a traceable trail while cash payments are favoured by those trying to avoid tax ( for example) as wrongdoing is more difficult to track.

"The most common black economy activity is not reporting or under-reporting taxable income," the report said.

"This includes income from cash jobs, whether that job is a person’s main employment or a small job on the side, not declaring rental income or income from sharing economy activities, shop keepers skimming transactions, or selling goods and services for cash without a receipt."

Australia is transitioning to a cashless society. Photo: Getty Images.

The Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) most recent research on the prevalence of cash use shows that Australian society is moving ever closer to being cashless.

READ MORE: More Than $40K In Cash Fell Off A Truck, Now Cops Want It Back

The research published in 2017 revealed that cash transactions accounted for 18 percent of total merchant interactions with just 11 percent of these were valued at $501 or more. The RBA research did not state how many of these exceeded the value of $10,000.

The research also said that roughly half -- 51 percent -- of all cash transactions involved people over the age of 65.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au