On a day when I wake up thinking about gambling - what is the state of the Flemington track like today - I was initially nonplussed by the following story:
HUNDREDS of thousands of elderly Australians playing poker machines could see their pensions cut after wins as smartcards are introduced to track gambling habits.
Centrelink has already used data tracked from pensioners using swipe cards at major casinos to count wins - and losses - as earnings, and demanded repayment.
Notwithstanding that anything the Aussies do could soon come to a store near you, the difference is that the Australian state pension is means-tested. Centrelink treats money spent on gambling as 'income'. But they also treat winnings as income. Which is patently stupid. Because most gamblers will re-invest winnings hoping to make more. That's how they get into deep schtuck. A gambler could have enormous 'income' yet have lost the lot.
Now their IRD equivalent wants the information from Centrelink as well. Very big brotherish.
Means-testing has it's merits if you support the welfare state because it allows so-called genuine need to be targeted. New Zealand adopts the universality approach as being fairer. But I refer to retirement pensions only.
Working age benefits are means-tested. Will Work and Income eventually introduce smartcards which can track the use of benefit money to gamble? Wouldn't be surprised.
I would oppose such a regime. The welfare reform I want would involve making the eligibility for state support much tighter. But where cash is provided (which could be reduced considerably if NZ did more in-kind assistance) there should be privacy about how it is used.
52 minutes ago