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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3869

Mr BLUNT —I refer the Minister for Health to information provided to me by the Honourable Cyril Kennedy, MLC, the Cain Labor Government Whip for the Legislative Council in Victoria, in which he enclosed a Press clipping indicating his intention to shred his identity card. I also refer the Minister to a letter sent to all Australian Labor Party branches in Victoria and all ALP affiliated unions by Mr Kennedy, reaffirming his support for the Victorian ALP State Branch's opposition to the ID card. Is the Minister aware that Mr Kennedy has also encouraged others to shred their ID cards? Is it Government policy that in this instance section 5 of the Crimes Act, concerning aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring others to commit an offence would apply--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member may not ask questions on Government policy; otherwise proceed. Leave government policy out of it. The Minister does not have to answer that. You may ask for an explanation of government policy but not for a statement of government policy.

Mr BLUNT —Madam Speaker, I will rephrase it. Does this mean that, under section 5 of the Crimes Act, the Government Whip in that State upper House would be prosecuted for aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring others to commit an offence, thereby resulting in Mr Kennedy's losing his seat?

Dr BLEWETT —It is of interest to note that the major contribution of the Opposition to the Australia Card debate over the past week has been suggestions as to how people can forge the card. The Opposition now wishes to advertise how people can burn the card. Its whole policy, its whole effort, has been devoted to trying to encourage illegal activities against the card. Of course, it is not surprising that an Opposition, now almost totally bereft of effective arguments against the card, resorts to these kinds of activities.

Let me say in relation to the specific point raised by the honourable member for Richmond that the Government will face any such issues when they arise, after the Opposition has ultimately given its support to the card. Honourable members opposite introduce particular Labor members from Victoria when their own position on the card over the last 12 months has been almost unbelievable. Twelve months ago they started with enthusiastic applause for the idea. We found the whole elite of the National Party of Australia supporting the card. Six months ago, of course, decisions were getting nearer and honourable members opposite always become rather weak towards decisions; so their two leading figures on the Select Committee on an Australia Card supported an expansion of the tax file number as part of an identification system. Two weeks ago, when the decision was even closer, that was simply abandoned by the Leader of the Opposition and there was no mention of the proposals that the two front bench members had supported only six months before.

We are not quite sure where the Opposition stands even now, because on Sunday the Leader of the Opposition had a rethink. When he was asked about the identification system based on the tax file number he said: `It is something we are examining at present'. I appreciate any rethinking by members of this Opposition, but when they do that rethinking-they will be forced by the people of Australia to do that rethinking-I would remind them of what the Commissioner of Taxation said:

I expect by the time you take all the steps that need to be taken to get high integrity into, say, a tax file number, then there's the same effects, the same costs, the same privacy questions that you'd get with the Australia Card.

By all means let the Opposition do some rethinking.