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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21886

Mr McClelland asked the Minister representing the Minister for Justice and Customs, upon notice, on 9 September 2003:

In respect of the feasibility study of an on-line identity verification service announced by the Minister on 6 July 2003, (a) who is responsible for conducting the study, (b) what are its terms of reference, (c) what is its budget, (d) which agencies and organisations will be consulted in the study, (e) how will State and Territory Governments be involved in the study, (f) when is the study due to be completed, (g) to whom will the report of the study be provided, and (h) will the report of the study be made public; if so, when.

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General) —The Minister for Justice and Customs has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(a) The feasibility study of an on-line verification service forms part of a `whole of government' strategy to examine measures to combat identity fraud.

In June 2003, the Commonwealth government agreed to the development of proposals to address identity misuse and that the Attorney-General's Department be the lead agency and coordinate the work of all relevant agencies.

The Reference Group on Identity Fraud is a committee composed of representatives from nineteen Commonwealth agencies and chaired by the Attorney-General's Department. It has been established to guide the development of a `whole of government' strategy.

The strategy involves 3 separate components and Steering Committees have been established to develop the detailed feasibility work. Work on each aspect is underway and covers:

A proposal for a common set of identifying documents of higher integrity to be used by Commonwealth agencies for purposes of identifying clients.

A proposal for the establishment of an on-line identity verification service for primary identification documents.

The development of proposals for more well-defined, cross-agency data matching to detect fictitious identities and cleanse identity registers.

The Attorney-General's Department will chair the on-line identity verification Steering Committee which is composed of representatives of relevant Commonwealth and State and Territory government agencies.

(b) The Terms of Reference of the on-line verification service feasibility study are:

1. The outcomes from work being undertaken to examine the feasibility of a common set of Proof of Identity processes will provide some key design elements for the Document Verification Service (DVS);

2. The Feasibility Study (Study) will be developed in partnership with relevant Commonwealth and State/Territory government agencies;

3. The outcome of this Study will not deliver or build a DVS but rather propose possible frameworks, including relevant specifications and business rules, along with key factors for consideration if implementation of the DVS is agreed;

4. The Study will clearly outline the differing roles and responsibilities of the service operator, data providers and users of any such Service;

5. The Study will aim to retain or increase existing privacy protections at the same time as meeting its other objectives. In doing so, the design considerations for the Study will give due regard to individual privacy interests (e.g. reducing identity theft), the broader community interest in protecting privacy, and other broad community interests.

6. The Study will consider how not to compromise the effective operation of the assumed identities regime by law enforcement and intelligence agencies;

7. The Study will include an outline of the required accountability framework for the DVS and include reference to the responsibilities of the service operator, data providers and users. In addition, the Study will examine issues related to independent oversight, audit reporting and review structures and appropriate complaints-handling mechanisms; and

8. The Study will consider the implications of any future possible extension of this Service to the non-government and private sectors.

(c) The costs associated with undertaking the feasibility study are being met by participating agencies from their existing budgets.

(d) Agencies participating in the development of the feasibility study are:

Attorney-General's Department,

Australian Crime Commission,

Australian Electoral Commission,

Australian Federal Police,

Australian Taxation Office,

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation,



Australian Customs Service,

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs,

Department of Veterans Affairs,

Department of Family and Community Services,

Department of Finance,

Department of Health and Ageing,

Health Insurance Commission,

National Office of Information Economy,

Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner and

Department of Treasury.

The States and Territories Registries of Birth, Deaths and Marriages and Austroads are also being consulted.

(e) State and Territory governments are involved through the participation of the Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages and Austroads.

(f) The feasibility study is due for completion in late October 2003.

(g) The study will form the basis of a report to Government.

(h) A decision on publication of the study will be made by Government when it is completed.