[LINK] Access card a risk: senate committee

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Thu Mar 15 21:15:23 AEDT 2007

Access card a risk: senate committee
March 15, 2007 - 8:04PM

The federal government's planned smart card risks becoming a de facto 
national identity card and the proposal must be sent back to the drawing 
board, a cross-party senate committee says.

In a damning report, the standing committee on finance and public 
administration said the access card was likely to become in effect an 
identity card, despite measures aimed at limiting its use.

"The committee considers that in all probability these provisions will 
be ignored in practice and will become dead letter law," it said.

"If so, they will not operate as the government intends and will not be 
an obstacle to the access card becoming a national identity card."

The proposed access card will replace the Medicare card and be 
compulsory for any Australian who wants to access up to 16 other 
government health and welfare services.

The government has denied the access card would amount to a national 
identity document similar to the Australia Card proposal of the 1980s, 
and says a high-tech card is needed to reduce fraud.

Cardholders would have their name, date of birth, citizenship or 
residency status, contact details, photograph and digitised signature 
stored on a central register.

But the Senate committee, chaired by Liberal senator Brett Mason, warned 
many questions about the card remained unanswered.

The committee was able to assess just one piece of legislation enacting 
the access card because a bill addressing several concerns, including 
privacy, had not yet been finalised.

"With only the first tranche of the access card legislation before it, 
the committee has ... been put at a disadvantage in that it does not 
know the detail of key provisions and measures that are intended to be 
addressed in later legislation," the report said.

"That the provisions held over relate to critical matters such as 
reviews and appeals, privacy protections and oversight and governance 
measures does little to allay the committee's general unease with the 
adequacy of this bill."

The report said the bill had been cobbled together in haste and should 
be redrafted: "The committee recommends that the bill be combined with 
the proposed second tranche of legislation for the access card system 
into a consolidated bill."

In redrafting the bill, the government must consider whether the only 
mandatory information displayed on the surface of the card should be the 
cardholder's name, the report said.

This would leave it up to the cardholder whether to include other 

The government should consider defining in the smart card legislation 
what level of access police and spy agencies have to the information 
held in the register, it said.

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said the committee's 
investigation of the Human Services (Enhanced Service Delivery) Bill 
2007 failed to give due regard to the access card's benefits, including 
the purpose of including a person's photograph on the card.

She dismissed concerns the card would evolve into a de facto national 
identity document.

"The protections contained in the bill are sufficient to allay such 
concerns," she said.



Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Sydney Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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