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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1458


Mr MILES(11.11) —I am interested in some of the comments which the honourable member for Lindsay (Mr Free) has just made, particularly when he says that the public knows the benefit to the community of the Australia Card. Yet, in this debate the Government has not listed one major group in Australia that has come out publicly and supported the Government's position. Not one person has mentioned any public groups which have announced publicly that they support the Government's position on this. Yet there is a great long list of people in Australia who are vehemently opposed to this legislation. Who is the Government trying to fool on this issue?


Dr Harry Edwards —The Australian people, that is who they are fooling.


Mr MILES —It certainly is. It certainly is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people. Yesterday the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) gave a very long list of people in Australia who oppose this legislation. I say again that the Government has not brought to this House or to the Australian people one major group which supports its proposal. I will list just a few of those people in Australia who oppose this legislation: The Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission, the Council of Social Service of New South Wales, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Policy Committee of the Australian Labor Party, the Society of Labor Lawyers, the International Commission of Jurists, the Confederation of Australian Industry, the Real Estate Institute of Australia, the Victorian and South Australian Chambers of Commerce, the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, Justice Kirby, Frank Costigan and Professor Walker. The Government would have us believe that these people support the crooks, cheats and rogues in our community. It is utter nonsense. These people are well qualified, are thoughtful and are constructive Australians who know what they are saying. They are well experienced and are totally opposed to this type of legislation in Australia.

Why have the educationalists in Australia not come out and supported the Government on this? Why have the trade unions not come out and supported the Government on this? Why have the teachers and the farmers not come out and supported the Government? No group in Australia supports the Government on this legislation. Yet we have people coming into this House saying that the public knows the benefit to the community of this legislation. In the Government's attempt to gain community support for the proposed identity card, it has claimed that the introduction of the Australia Card will do four things: Reduce tax avoidance and evasion, reduce social security fraud, help combat organised crime and, lastly stop illegal immigration. Quite simply, it will do none of that. The honourable member for Lindsay, who spoke previously, said that we ought to debate the topic. Yet he spent three minutes criticising the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Webster), that is, 20 per cent of his speech criticising a person. That seems to be a ridiculous approach to the issue.

Tax cheats, social security bludgers and organised crime are matters of considerable community concern. Any government that can come to terms with those problems can expect widespread support. I agree with that. However, it is widely known that an ID card will not serve as a means of achieving the Government's objectives. In fact, the Joint Select Committee on an Australia Card specifically rejected the introduction of an ID card, stating that the proposals failed to address the major problems which were to be overcome by the introduction of a national identity system. Rather than help to combat organised crime, an ID card will help to entrench it. The scheme is so full of loopholes that criminals can easily circumvent it. There will be a flourishing trade in false ID cards which will legitimise false identities and entrench fraud.

Mr Frank Costigan, QC-if anybody in Australia knows anything about crime, he does-believes that the card will be used by organised crime to legitimise its activities, and he does not advocate its introduction. Illegal immigrants with a false ID card will be able to avoid detection and freely partake in this country's resources. The United States, which has a large scale problem with illegal immigrants, has not adopted an ID card.

The ID card will not be of much assistance in reducing tax avoidance and evasion. Much of the professional tax evasion industry conducts its business through companies and trusts and it will be untouched by the proposal. In addition, the card will simply fail to apprehend the users of the cash and barter economy. In Sweden, where citizens must have an ID card, the Government loses 20 per cent of its current revenue through tax evasion. In Italy, the Government loses 30 per cent of gross domestic product. Should Australian citizens have an ID card imposed on them in order to catch six out of 100 social security cheats who use a false identity? Surely that is too ludicrous even to contemplate. Even the Department of Social Security is sceptical about the Government's proposal.

Not only is it appalling that the Labor Government is trying to hoodwink the Australian public with plastic magic-that there is a quick and easy solution to the problems of tax evasion, social security fraud and organised crime-the cost involved in establishing an ID system cannot be justified. Mr Roger Clarke, reader in information systems in the Faculty of Economics and Commerce at the Australian National University, has studied the costs involved. He has questioned the Government's underlying assumptions and believes that the Government's figures are poorly explained. In fact, as recently as February of this year the Australia Card secretariat, within the Health Insurance Commission, admitted that it had not costed the card. Is it not incredible that this Government claims that the card will save the taxpayers millions of dollars, yet it has not costed the introduction of the system? It is absolutely incredible. However, Mr Clarke gave the Government the benefit of the doubt. He found:

If the Government's estimates of tax savings prove reasonable, then in seven years time each taxpayer's disposal income will be a mere $50 p.a. more than it otherwise would have been.

One really wonders who the real tax cheats are in this country because, over the past three years, this Government has ripped 17 per cent more tax out of the Australian people than would have been the case under a Liberal, conservative government. That is a simple fact. Quite frankly, this Government is cheating the Australian people. Now it is trying to put the onus back on the Australian people by saying that, at the heart of the matter, they are the cheats. The Australian people are being cheated by this Government regarding taxation.

The ID card is an example yet again of the Labor Government's squandering of taxpayers' money. The money could easily be spent in making existing systems more efficient. In the process of introducing an ID card, the Government is depriving the Australian people of their fundamental freedoms. Even James McClelland, a former Labor Minister, has opposed the ID card. He said:

Even if the ID card would ensure that every cent of dodged tax would be caught in its net, I still don't think that it is worth the price of making every citizen wear a dog collar.

The honourable member for Lindsay mentioned that a member of the Opposition talked about people having to wear a dog collar. Of course, that comment came from a person on Labor's own side-a previous Minister. It is ironic that a government which tried to impose a human rights Bill on the Australian community is, in introducing an ID card, so cavalier in its attitude to the classic doctrine of the protection of human rights which is based primarily on the need to protect an individual against the action of public authorities. The ID card will entrench a system of bureaucratic surveillance in which each man, woman and child will have a complete womb to tomb individual dossier kept on him or her.

In the final analysis, we can say this: It boils down to whether we value our democracy and the freedoms in which Australians have so long come to believe. If Australia accepts an ID card the irony will be that it will have gained little in the material sense. It will, however, have given in to an ill-conceived sense of pragmatism-political expediency-which has led us further down the path to what I regard as serfdom. People should not be mistaken by the power grab-that is what it is all about; getting power over people's lives-that is the hidden agenda of this Government. We saw it in the Australian Bill of Rights and we see it again now. It is power over the Australian people so they can be manipulated as desired by the Government. The coalition is totally opposed to any legislation that has a hidden agenda, that reduces freedom and that does not have a chance in hell of meeting its stated objectives.