Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 9 December 1986
Page: 3632

Senator SIDDONS(8.59) —I rise to speak briefly on this very important issue. Of course, an identity card is a very emotive issue which gives honourable senators a great opportunity to make rousing and emotive speeches and to speak at great length on the issue. I firmly believe that, by the time all speakers on this long list of speakers have been heard by the Australian public, most Australians will be heartily sick of hearing from senators. Nevertheless, as I am now essentially-at least for the time being-an independent and as it is quite likely that the vote on this important piece of legislation will be quite close, I believe it is my responsibility to make my position absolutely clear. I propose to do that briefly.

As far as I am concerned the Australia Card as it is now proposed is a classic example of the over-bureaucratisation of our society; a trend that has gathered momentum through governments of both persuasions over the last 20 years. Mr Costigan and Mr Meagher, two great Australians who have done more than any other individual to expose organised crime in this country, have made a very important contribution to this Australia Card debate. They have said that most of the objectives that the Government has set down could be achieved if a verifiable tax file number were issued which could be used in all financial transactions. That is a much easier, more straightforward and less bureaucratic approach to solving this very severe problem that exists in our community-that is, fraud. Instead we have seen the Government going for the overkill and the bureaucratic and complicated approach which is very much in line with the way it approached the fringe benefits tax. It was a problem that could have been solved simply and without the bureaucratic humbug that we now have to put up with. I believe the Government has bought the argument of the bureaucracy hook, line and sinker to burden the Australian people with an identification system which is excessively bureaucratic and above all poses great dangers to our civil liberties. Quite simply, about 2,000 additional bureaucrats will be required to apply the system. Those who work in the Health Department may be delighted; they are probably rubbing their hands together at the prospect of another 2,000 bureaucrats. But do we need another 2,000 public servants to keep an eye on us? Why do we not look for the simple approach? Why do we not look for some means of tackling our problems without all this overkill which seems to be the approach of the Government on all sorts of issues ranging from ID cards to the fringe benefits tax.

I will not be supporting this legislation. I believe the all party parliamentary committee majority report on civil liberties and the privacy issues involved has not been adequately addressed by this legislation. I believe there is a great danger that the civil liberties and privacy of Australian citizens will be jeopardised by this legislation. I do not believe it necessarily tackles the very real problem of fraud, and the prospects of introducing it in this complicated form is quite daunting. The problem of interviewing the entire adult population of this country almost makes one shudder. The thought of the chaos is absolutely horrendous and smacks of the Mary and Joseph pilgrimage when they travelled to Bethlehem to register for the Roman census at the time of the birth of Christ. We have seen many examples of governments trying to keep tabs on the entire population by getting files and reports on them. This practice has always been an infringement of civil liberties and it is not something we can trust any government or bureaucracy with. There is no way that the information on the ID system will be kept confidential as more and more departments gain access to it, as we have already seen in so many cases in both State and Federal departments. There is no way that we can guarantee the confidentiality of the information that the Government proposes to gather on every adult citizen of this country.

My position is simply this: I cannot risk the civil liberties of my fellow Australians by voting for this legislation. I would propose that better use be made of a verifiable tax file number which could be used when all financial transactions are undertaken, such as when opening bank accounts, applying for jobs and applying for welfare benefits. The quoting of a simple verifiable tax file number would, I believe, solve 90 per cent of the fraud that exists today. It would be a very simple and straightforward approach. It was, in fact, the recommendation of the parliamentary Committee, it was the recommendation of Mr Costigan and Mr Meagher, and it is the solution to the problem that I would vote for. The legislation, in its present form, will be opposed by me.