'Access All Areas': Function Creep Guaranteed in Australia's ID Card Bill (No. 1)
18 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2007
Date Written: February 2007
Australia's Federal Government introduced into Parliament the Human Services (Enhanced Service Delivery) Bill 2007 on 7 February 2007 to establish its 'health and welfare access card' ID system. The Bill is only half of the blueprint for the ID system: the other half is yet to come in a Bill or Bills not yet seen. In this article I argue that the current Bill, and the government's 'access card' proposals as we currently understand them, should be rejected by the Parliament. The principal reason for this is that, despite the government's often-stated intention that they will not create a national identification system, there is an overwhelming likelihood that they will they will, and they should therefore be rejected. The existence (or likely development) of a national ID system does not depend simply upon whether a person is required to carry an ID card at all times, but depends upon an objective assessment of a number of factors, including whether one ID card and/or its associated ID number is likely to become predominant in use for identification purposes, effectively supplanting most other identification documents for daily purposes.
This article argues that the Bill will facilitate continuous 'function creep' in the use of the 'access card' and its associated ID number and other information. The ways it does so include (i) discretions in the Secretary and the Minister to make decisions expanding the system which are not disallowable by Parliament; (ii) objectives encouraging uncontrolled use; (iii) inclusion on the chip of capacity beyond what is needed for legitimate government purposes, with very little proposed control over how it can be used; (iv) lack of precision in when use of the card may be required; (v) inadequate offences controlling requirements to produce the card; (vi) inadequate offences controlling copying of information on the card and in the chip; (vii) inadequate control over changes in business and government identification practices that make it inevitable that the card and number will be routinely offered for identification ('pseudo-voluntary production'); (viii) absence of controls over who will be able to access information in the Register; and (ix) no provision for payment of damages to cardholders for breaches of the Act. These inadequacies make it close to inevitable that the 'access card' system (including the Register) will develop into a national identification system, contrary to the government's promise to the Australian people, and contrary to their interests.
Keywords: privacy, ID card, access card, law reform, function creep
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