Cashless welfare card for pensioners? Death tax? What to believe

With the election campaign in full swing, will the spread of misinformation be a deciding factor in who forms the next government?

Along with what each party will do for you, political advertising and messaging often focuses on what the other side might do, aiming to scare you into voting one way or the other.

In recent days, the Labor Party has once again ignited fears among older Australians that the Liberal/National Party government plans to put all age pensioners on to its controversial Indue cashless welfare card.

Aimed at ensuring welfare payments are not spent on alcohol, gambling or other social harms, the Indue card is being trialled in several communities across Australia.

Read: Push for opt-in Universal Age Pension ahead of federal election

Last July, Labor set up a website warning of the dangers of this plan. The site refers to an interview given by social services minister Anne Ruston to Channel 7 in February 2020 in which she said the government was “seeking to put all income management on to the universal platform, which is the cashless debit card”.

Although Senator Ruston did say that in the interview, she was referring to getting existing welfare recipients (not age pensioners) to move from the existing BasicsCard to the new Indue card.

A spokesperson from Senator Ruston’s office told radio station 3AW that Labor’s claims were baseless and that the LNP “never will have a plan to force age pensioners onto the cashless debit card”.

But as the saying goes, ‘a lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots’.

Read: Older Australians reveal voting intentions ahead of federal election

For what it’s worth, Labor says it will not be backing down on the cashless pension card rhetoric.

“This is a key issue,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters.

“We make absolutely no apology whatsoever for standing up for the pensioners of this country who are petrified that this cashless debit card will be extended to them.”

It’s not just one side of politics pushing furphies either. Labor’s primary vote suffered greatly at the last election due to LNP messaging that Labor was going to introduce an inheritance or ‘death tax’.

Read: Strong policies go missing in lacklustre election battle

The claim formed no part of Labor’s policy platform, and doesn’t this time either, but it seems the inheritance tax scare campaign is back.

Beginning in March, the LNP has been placing ads on Facebook and Instagram that warn voters to “not trust Labor with your retirement savings” and even includes a link to a petition on the matter.

Unfortunately, all of these shenanigans are perfectly legal within the Australian electoral system, which has no ‘truth in advertising’ requirement.

National Seniors chief advocate Ian Henschke says it’s hard for older Australians to know who to trust as both sides spend too much time focusing on mudslinging at one another.

“Why don’t we just focus on the real policies instead of the ones that are not real? This is what we should be doing,” Mr Henschke says.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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