Draconian cash bill treats us all as tax-dodging criminals

Perhaps you, like me, sometimes lie awake at night worrying. When the blackness is pressing in, all sorts of issues raise their heads — particularly, how our basic freedoms keep disappearing. The Morrison government in particular is escalating this trend.

This is not a reference to the so-called culture wars. These, in my opinion, distract us from matters more pressing.

For example, I don’t lie awake and worry about what things people from the left say on Twitter. I don’t worry about whether someone else’s child feels they are not a boy and should be a girl, or vice versa. This personal issue is theirs to deal with, and I struggle to see why any of us should intrude.

Perhaps there is something wrong with me, but what other people wear, how they live, who they have sex with and marry or what religion they believe in isn’t of concern unless it directly affects my freedoms.

At the moment, we should all worry about something important and real. If the Morrison government gets its way, next year we could be sent to prison for 2½ years for the crime of taking $10,000 of our own after-tax money in cash and buying something such as a car or an item of jewellery off someone with an Australian Business Number. And no, you can’t buy something for $10,000 and split the payment into two parts, and both parties to the transaction will be equally prosecuted.

This is not a nightmare or a joke. The Currency (Restrictions of the Use of Cash Bill) 2019 is in the queue to go before parliament.

Some time ago, the black economy taskforce recommended a ban on cash to tackle tax evasion and criminal conduct.

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and to people from the Australian Taxation Office everyone with cash in their hand looks like a tax-dodging criminal. And so this is how they want everyone using certain amounts of cash to be treated.

There are exemptions planned, we are told. The cash ban won’t apply to individual-to-individual transactions, so a private sale of a second-hand car would be OK.

However, if one of the people to the private transaction happens to hold an ABN because they are a subcontractor or business owner then they may be caught, but we just don’t know.

The ban doesn’t apply when we deposit or withdraw money from a bank. So for the moment, at least, we still will be allowed to physically touch our own money — let’s be grateful for small mercies.

If the whole issue is news to you, then it is little wonder. On July 26 this year, the government released the exposure draft for public consultation and closed submissions about two weeks later, on August 12.

Originally, this crazy move was announced as an “economy-wide cash payment limit” in the 2018-19 budget, and since that time the issue has been ignored.

Once the bill passes, the new law will take effect from January 1 next year, and a year later for certain Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre reporting entities.

Scott Morrison appears determined to sneak this through with the help of Labor, which stands ready to assist. Presumably, anyone who has $10,000 in cash is from the big end of town anyway, and so deserving of prison, even if only for a couple of years.

Now I can’t speak for anyone else in this column but I can speak for me. I have earned my cash, I have paid tax on it, and although I am not in the habit of walking around with it, if I want to take it out of the bank and use it to go and buy something, or pay a bill, then I should be able to do that without fear of prosecution.

Cash is a legal currency and it is unacceptable for the government to prevent us from using it. My freedom, and yours, is going to be reduced by this draconian new law. And with low or even negative interest rates coming, people may want to keep cash reserves at home to use as required.

It is time to put the blowtorch on this government over its hypocritical conduct. It talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. It pretends to care about removing red tape, but its first instinct is to regulate.

You may think that people who have nothing to hide have nothing to worry about with this bill, but that is not the point. Once it is passed, it is all over for the people of this country in terms of freedom and liberty. We are on the cusp of an unprecedented move into a situation where the state has an unreasonable amount of control over the citizen.

Just imagine, too, how other governments will tighten this noose in the future. A $10,000 limit today means a smaller limit tomorrow. The boffins who created the bill wanted a limit of $2000, so the writing is on the wall.