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Do We Need To Bring Back The Concept of An Australia Card?

Do we need an Australia Card and are those businesses who demand cash set to come unstuck as the Coronavirus takes hold?

As millions of Australians look for their first Government payment after being retrenched and business, is desperately looking at how they will survive there appears to be confusion as to how to pay people or fund business.

We need a process that allows disadvantaged people to get money quickly and a way for business to hold onto employees with tax payments set to be a key way forward for the Federal Government to determine which employees will be paid and how much.

Each quarter business lodges BAS payments with the tax office, this identifies salaries and how much is being paid to individuals.

If we had an Australian Card that had employee details such as bank account details, home address and tax file numbers all the employer would have to do is advise the Government that an employee had been laid off and payments could start straight away.

Centrelink queues have stretched around blocks in Australian cities this last week and all this would be avoided with an Australia Card system, there would be no dole queuing, no stress for individuals.

It would also sort out all those businesses that collect cash and don’t pay tax with those businesses and the employees who are paid cash only getting payments based on the percentage of salary lodged in a BAS report.

It would also identify individual businesses who operate in a cash economy.

Currently it’s being speculated that Australians who lose their jobs will be given a wage subsidy to guarantee a share of their income as the coronavirus crisis wipes out both their employer’s businesses and peoples job.

Currently the Morrison government is planning to pay workers a percentage of their wages and is examining ways to get employers to transfer the money to their staff, as an alternative to using the welfare system.

If we had an Australian Card the employer and the business would be easily identifiable and above all held accountable.

This program is expected to have a cap on the total income to be paid, while the percentage of income covered is yet to be decided.

Mr Morrison’s first stimulus measures have only offered workers the Jobseeker allowance, previously known as Newstart and worth $2,200 per month including a temporary doubling of the rate during the health and economic crisis.

The Financial Review claimed the move to a wage subsidy is a significant shift.

The idea of an Australia Card has been floating around for decades and the Coronavirus could be a real reason for putting it back on the political agenda.

First was raised as a concept at the national Tax Summit in 1985 convened by the then Federal Labor government led by Bob Hawke, it was proposed that the card be used to amalgamate other government identification systems and act against tax avoidance, and health and welfare fraud.

The government introduced legislation in the parliament in 1986, but it did not have a majority in the Senate and was repeatedly blocked by the opposition and minor parties. Due to his opposition to the card, ALP senator George Georges resigned from the party to sit as an independent in December 1986.

In response, Hawke asked the Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen for a double dissolution, which was granted on 5 June 1987, followed by an election on 11 July.

The government was returned, but still without a majority in the Senate.

Nevertheless, the legislation was reintroduced, even though it was expected to be blocked in the Senate once more.

It was then that a retired public servant, Ewart Smith, noticed a flaw in the drafting of the legislation that nobody on either side had previously noticed.

Even if the bill had been passed in the joint sitting, certain regulations necessary for the functioning of the system could be overturned by the Senate alone.

Specifically, the bill contained clauses that imposed penalties on businesses that failed to require a person to produce their Australia Card, or authorized the freezing of bank account and social security payments for those who did not produce one.

It then became too hard and was dropped.

By having in place a unique identifier both business, Goverment and individuals would benefit.