Australia is rapidly abandoning physical currency and predicted to become a “cashless society” within a few years, according to experts.
Since 2019, banks have removed 3,800 ATMs across the country, representing over one-third of Australia’s cash machines, news.com.au reported. The top four Australian banks, meanwhile, have permanently shuttered 459 branches.
CBA, Australia’s largest bank, now has just 875 branches, compared with 1,200 before COVID-19. At the same time, the bank has cut ATMs by more than half, down to 2,000.
In New South Wales, over 200 suburbs have no way to obtain cash in their area, according to news.com.au, and 300 lack a bank store.
Digital transactions already predominate in Australia, where fewer than 25 percent of transactions involve physical money and 80 percent of residents prefer virtual banking.
The shift to digital, experts said, will leave the country effectively cashless by 2031 or earlier.
Professor Robert Breunig of Australia National University told news.com.au last fall that COVID-19 sped up the move to online banking, which will help authorities monitor and tax payments more easily. “People often avoid tax by doing cash type jobs and if there is no cash under the table, then it’ll be easier to actually follow transactions,” Breunig said.
In a survey of experts conducted by Finder last year, 89 percent said they believed that COVID has hastened the demise of cash. Fifty-six percent said that physical currency would likely disappear in Australia within 10 years, though that could as early as 2024, according to some estimates.
“Cash has already been pushed to the edges of our economy, and cash-only businesses are few and far between. Expect them to get even rarer,” said Graham Cooke, head of consumer research for Finder. “Finder predicted a cashless society in Australia by 2036 a few years back and now even that timeline may be too far away.”
The push for readily traceable digital payments has long been backed by the liberal global elite.
Bill Gates has hailed the development of virtual currencies, saying at a recent cryptocurrency forum that they “can lower the cost of a range of transactions by as much as 90 percent, providing nearly universal access to innovative financial products and services.”
In Klaus Schwab’s book, COVID-19: The Great Reset, the head of the World Economic Forum contemplated the rise of a worldwide digital currency. Communist China, Schwab observed, “is years ahead of the rest of the world in developing a digital currency combined with powerful electronic payment platforms.”
And in an article last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposed a system of social credit scoring like China’s that would determine credit eligibility based on internet search history.
The U.S. Federal Reserve announced in January that it will open debate about whether the U.S. should adopt a central bank digital currency, mirroring similar efforts in the U.K. and E.U.