Function Creep - Defined and Still Dangerous in Australia's Revised ID Card Bill

17 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2009

Date Written: October 30, 2007


The Australian federal government's attempts to introduce an 'access card' for health and welfare benefits have been attacked by many critics, particularly on the ground that this is really the introduction of a poorly-disguised national identification system, similar to the failed 'Australia Card' proposals of 1987. The government's first Bill introduced to Australia's federal Parliament was rejected by a Senate Committee as incomplete and withdrawn by the government, following criticisms by numerous critics. In response the government released only an 'Exposure Draft' of the Human Services (Enhanced Service Delivery) Bill 2007 and called for public comment.

No new Bill was introduced before Parliament rose for an election called for November 24 2007. The fate of the 'access card' proposal therefore depends on the election outcome. For the moment, the Bill's opponents have succeeded in their goal of preventing the government from passing the Bill while it still has a Parliamentary majority.

This article concentrates on those aspects of the Exposure Draft Bill which (directly or indirectly) determine the scope and purposes of the identity system which it will create, and in particular what opportunities they provide for expansion of those functions and purposes beyond those the government claims the Bill is about. In other words, this is an article principally about the opportunities for function creep. Although it contains some detailed recommendations for how the Bill could be improved, that is not an endorsement of any Bill containing such improvements. This Bill should be abandoned in favour of a more limited and less dangerous approach.

Keywords: Law and Technology

Suggested Citation

Greenleaf, Graham, Function Creep - Defined and Still Dangerous in Australia's Revised ID Card Bill (October 30, 2007). UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2007-64, Available at SSRN: or

Graham Greenleaf (Contact Author)

Independent Scholar ( email )



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