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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1460


Mr CAMPBELL(11.23) —In rising to support the Australia Card Bill 1986 [No. 2], I must say that throughout all my thinking life I have been a champion of civil liberties. I do not believe there is one member of this House who has, throughout his or her life, been a more consistent supporter of civil liberties and personal freedoms than I have. Indeed, with parents such as I had, it is not surprising. I recognise that civil liberty is not civil licence and that personal freedom is contingent upon personal responsibility. We live in a world of complex technology. Not one of us can be sure that we are not under surveillance, a fact to which the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) would attest. I am sure that my phone is being tapped. I have had the tell-tale signs of a drop in signal strength at the beginning of conversations, or the clicks and whirs of recording machines, or simply the inexplicable drop out of the phone line. I have no idea who is doing it, but I assume that it is not the authorities because it is done in a most amateurish way. I am sure that an official tap would be much more discreet. Enough of my personal paranoia.

Let me turn to many of the other invasions of our privacy that we take for granted. My passport contains much more information about me than the Australia Card would. I do not think that any of that information is unnecessary. I have found it very useful when I have needed to identify myself. A drivers licence, or a licence of any sort, contains detailed information about a person. In my wallet I have over a dozen different credit cards, all of which have encoded information about me that, in total, is far more detailed and intrusive than the information contained on the Australia Card would be. I have absolutely no control over this knowledge or control over people who use it. The amount of targeted mail that I get testifies to the fact that somebody gets access to it.

I mentioned when this issue was last before the House that in my youth back in the bad old days before Brigadier McKinnon cleaned up the South Australian Police Force and made it into what was then arguably the best police force in Australia, I suffered constant harassment from the police. At the time I lived in the middle of Adelaide and every night would encounter often very aggressive behaviour from the Police Force. On those occasions had I had an identity card with a photograph, the police would have had no option but to leave me alone or to arrest me.

The contribution from the Opposition to this debate has been interesting. The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) regaled us in his own inimitable style of articulated sophistry delivered in the most modulated tones and told us of all the evils of this card. Another contribution delivered on air last night was that of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Nehl). I would like to paraphrase what the honourable member had to say because he was at least as rational as his colleagues. I took special notice of his contribution and was prepared to look beyond the amateur Gielgudian with which he delivered it. Basically it sounded like this: Out, out damn spot. This is an unweeded garden, socialist oppression, to be or not to be, murder most foul, dripping urine, Gestapo, road to Philippi or was it Gundagai, alas poor Yorick, tattoos and bicycles.

That is a fair summation of the standard of debate that has been made from the people opposite. The truth is that the people opposite are not civil libertarians for they want to increase phone taps. They never complain about commercial infringements because it is basically their people that commit these infringements. Their double standards know no bounds. Repeatedly they get up in this House and denounce just about every recipient of social security payments as a welfare fraud. Consistently during this debate, however, honourable members opposite have said there is very little welfare fraud. They even use and endorse the views of the Department. They say the problem is one of overpayment. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker: How do you come to grips with overpayment? Of course, the cross-referencing of a unique identity system, such as the Australia Card, would be very useful.

During his discourse the honourable member for North Sydney mentioned the many people who have opposed the Australia Card. These range from Mr Justice Kirby and Frank Costigan to Labor Lawyers and Young Labor. None of these people are overendowed with what I would call common sense and most have a puffed up sense of their own importance. I have a list here of the organisations which support the Australia Card. They are: The Australian Retailers Association, the Business Council of Australia, the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, the Australian Taxpayers Association, the Australian Hotels Association, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, the Australian Society of Accountants, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Medical Records Association, the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the Doctors Reform Society, the Council on the Ageing, the Smith Family, the Salvation Army, Sydney City Mission, St Vincent De Paul Society, the Returned Services League and the Royal Surf Lifesaving Society. So I can at least say to members of the Opposition that that is a Roland for your Olivier.

The honourable member for North Sydney does need some consideration, for whatever his case he puts it together well. I would like to make a point that I have made before in this House. I have a basic philosophy not to trust lawyers and, above all, to keep them away from the money. There is a very real danger with our national predilection for things American that we could go down the disastrous road of litigation that costs Americans proportionately more than industrial action costs this country. I am reminded of an English research establishment that has decided to replace its white mice with lawyers in the more dangerous experiments. It says the lawyers are easier to get and in any case it has got to like the mice.

This is the same Bill that has already been rejected in the Senate. Why should it not be reintroduced? Those charlatans and bleeding heart opportunists that make up the Australian Democrats have said that they will reject anything that this Government puts up. Besides, the lead time for this Bill is such that we can make any necessary machinery alterations as we go along. In the meantime, public revenue is bleeding at the rate of $2.5m a day, every day. This is just one more testament to the fiscal irresponsibility of the Opposition. If the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) wants a trigger for a double dissolution, I feel he may be thwarted as there are many Opposition senators who do not want an election and who know in their hearts that the Government is right and has popular support.

I recently had a letter from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia, an organisation that I used to belong to and one for which I have some affection. It raises concerns about the Bill that are quite unfounded. I will deal with the substance of these concerns. It is concerned about the impact on isolated people and particularly their members. But the Government has recognised that people living in isolated areas or those who lack mobility may sometimes find it difficult to visit their produce agents, marketing authorities, et cetera, to have their cards sighted. So just as occurs now when people apply for a passport, the Government will allow certain groups of people who are prominent within the community to sign certificates of identity.

The certificate of identity works like this: Say, for example, a person wants to open an account with a stock broker in Sydney or Melbourne but being a remote dweller he is unable to travel there just to produce his Australia Card. He will go to a designated person in his local community who is authorised to sign certificates of identity. That person will sight the Australia Card and sign a form verifying that the Australia Card has been produced and that it would not have been reasonably practical for the card to have been physically produced, and everyone is satisfied. The certificate of identity can then be posted to the stockbroker, marketing authority, bank or produce agent who will use it instead of the Australia Card as proof of identity when an account is opened. Recorded on the certificate will be the Australia Card numbers of both the card holder and the authorised person filling in the form so that it will be possible to trace the person who provided the certificate. The authorised person will be made fully aware that if he knowingly makes a false statement on the certificate he faces severe penalties. Thus both the security and integrity of the card will be assured, while a convenient service will be provided for those who might have been inconvenienced by the tyrannies of distance.

Once an Australia Card has been sighted or a certificate of identity received, customers may continue to transact all business in their preferred way, including by mail or by telephone. After the card or certificate has been produced once to an agent, marketing authority, et cetera, and the number recorded, there will be no further need to produce the card for normal business with these bodies. Once a stock and station agent or marketing authority has recorded a farmer's Australia Card number, for instance, the farmer may conduct further business over the phone or by mail. An Australia Card will not need to be produced for one off sales of produce or livestock which are not conducted through a marketing authority or produce agent. That is quite clearly in the Act. This is the only area where one is assured by legislation of the security of information. Unfortunately that is not a privilege a person has if he has credit cards of any sort.

I would like to turn to immigration because this is an area of concern to me. We have what passes for a bipartisan program of immigration in this Parliament. It is my view that the policy is wrong. I am often confronted with the heart rending situation of people who have settled very well into small towns in my community being apprehended as illegal immigrants. What we have in Australia is an immigration policy which seems to impact immigrants disproportionately into Sydney. There is no doubt that this is having an effect in Sydney and is forcing up the rental market. That is not the case in the rest of Australia. Many of these immigrants are very welcome in my small towns. When one extracts somebody from a small town whose kids are in the school, in the cricket team or the dart team or active in the community one wrenches the whole of society and alienates the whole town. I would quite happily endorse a system where the Government rigorously enforced extradition or deportation of illegal immigrants living is Sydney, but let it be known that this policy will not be pursued in remote Australia. The fact is it is much easier to catch people living in remote Australia who, for the most part, make no attempt to hide their identities and in some cases are unaware that they are illegal immigrants. If this system were implemented it would be much harder for people to get to that stage where that wrench is forced upon them. I believe that this is preferable to the present system. While I will be working for a complete overhaul of the immigration system in an attempt to get a more rational policy, I know that in the short term the Australia Card will alleviate some of the pain.