Paul Erickson: Labor denies misleading older people over cashless debit card payment requests

The Labor campaign boss has responded to accusations he used paid advertising to mislead a group of voters during the election.

The Labor Party campaign leader has denied accusations that the party deliberately misled Australian seniors by claiming Scott Morrison would force pensioners to use cashless debit cards.

During his time in opposition and throughout the recent election campaign, several Labor MPs, including Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles, argued that a re-elected coalition would force older people into the programme.

The cashless debit card program, which the Albanian government has pledged to abolish, has quarantined up to 80% of social assistance payments in a restricted bank account.

It was designed to prevent cash withdrawals or expenses for certain items such as alcohol and gambling.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison then called the speculation a “shameful lie” intended to scare pensioners away.

When asked if, on reflection, he considered the campaign to be misleading, Labor National Secretary Paul Erickson dismissed the question.

“Absolutely it was not a lie,” he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“We campaigned against the cashless debit card and pointed the finger at the Liberal government and Anne Ruston, the former minister’s own words, and we have now taken action by pledging to abolish the cashless debit card .”

Despite repeatedly ruling out extending the cashless debit card to older pensioners, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston was haunted by a comment she made in March 2020.

Addressing a parliamentary inquiry, Senator Ruston said she was “open to a conversation with the nation about the future use of the cashless debit card as a measure of well-being”.

Under current law, older retirees can access the card either voluntarily or under state and territory vulnerability provisions.

An extension of the map would have required a vote on the floor of parliament.

Earlier this month, new minister Amanda Rishworth announced that Labor had taken steps to scrap the card.

“The former coalition government spent more than $170 million on the privatized cashless debit card – money that could have been spent on services that locals need,” Ms Rishworth said.

It came after a scathing report by the Auditor General found that the previous government had failed to ‘demonstrate that the cashless debit card program is achieving its objectives’.

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