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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1578


Senator PUPLICK(11.04) —Among the many records that this Government has set in its four disastrous years in office is a new record for cynicism and a new record for misleading the people of Australia. On 5 February 1987 the Minister for Health, Dr Blewett, put out a Press statement headed: `Changes to Australia Card Bill'. Dr Blewett, in his Press statement, said:

The Federal Government has decided to amend the Australia Card Bill before it is reintroduced in the coming Parliamentary session.

The Federal Health Minister, Dr Neal Blewett, said today that the Government's decision to make minor amendments to the Bill demonstrated its willingness to accept any reasonable suggestions which would improve the Australia Card program.

I quote Dr Blewett's words from that release:

The Government has decided to make a number of minor changes to machinery aspects of the Bill to improve the program and take account of constructive criticism.

I will wait with interest for Senator Elstob to explain why Dr Blewett was prepared to put out a statement on 5 February, saying that this Bill would be amended, and then come back to this Parliament with a Bill which was unamended, other than for the reasons of sleazy cynicism with which this Government is covering itself on every available opportunity. I have referred to the words of the Health Minister less than two months ago, betrayed and denied in this place simply in order to provide some sort of sleazy mechanism for a double dissolution to dishonour yet another of the Hawke Government's commitments-that is, for this Parliament to run its full term.

One, of course, is not surprised by the attitude that Dr Blewett takes in these matters. After all, this is what he told the 1986 South Australian Conference of the Australian Labor Party:

Let me say as a socialist that it is the interests of the community that should come before the individual right . . . we shouldn't get too hung up as socialists on privacy because privacy, in many ways, is a bourgeois right that is very much associated with the right to private property.

There are certain rights, including what Dr Blewett thinks are bourgeois rights about individual privacy, which the parties on this side of the chamber are determined to defend, and to defend by defeating this Australia Card legislation.

Senator Aulich, the Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on an Australia Card, who could not even keep all of the Labor members of the Joint Select Committee on track to supinely recommend the Australia Card, because the majority of members of the Joint Select Committee, including one of the Labor members of the Committee, recommended against the Australia Card, said today, among other things, that the attacks on the Australia Card have been made by what he described as `professional civil libertarians and affluent lawyers'. Let us hear which of those categories is supposed to cover Mr Lewis Kent, a Victorian member of the Labor Party in the House of Representatives who spoke in that House on 13 February 1986 denouncing the Australia Card, saying that it was akin to the system that the nazis had introduced, and that nobody who believed in decency in Australia would support it. On the following day the Canberra Times ran a story headed: `MP summoned after ID card attack'.

Let Senator Aulich tell us into which of the categories Mr Cyril Kennedy, the Labor Party Whip in the Victorian Legislative Council, fits. He put out a statement in May 1986 denouncing the use of the Australia Card. Let him tell us into which of those categories Mr George Petersen, MP, the Labor left wing New South Wales State member for Illawarra, fits. On 5 May 1986 he was reported in the Illawarra Mercury as attacking this proposal. Let him tell us into which of those categories Mr John Saunderson, MP, a Labor member of the House of Representatives from Victoria, fits. He wrote an article in the January-February 1986 issue of the Journal Civil Liberties headed `ID cards: the case against'. Let him tell us into which of those categories the Federal Labor Party legal and administrative committee fits. It resolved in February 1986 to oppose the card. Let him tell us into which of those categories Senator Nick Bolkus, Labor, South Australia, who put in to the Joint Select Committee a submission denouncing the Australia Card, fits. Let him tell us into which of those categories Senator Georges, who laid his political career on the line in regard to this matter, fits. Into which of those categories-the professional civil libertarian or the affluent lawyer-are all of those members of the Australian Labor Party to be fitted?

Let me come to the next point in Senator Aulich's pathetic attempt to justify this card. He told us three things. He said: `I have a letter from Mr Howe addressed to Dr Blewett'. Peace in our time, I suppose, between the warring departments. He said: `I will tell you about the 60,000 illegal immigrants in the country, and I will tell you about the Australian Federal Police'. Let me address each of those three, not on the basis of his spurious claims, but on the basis of the evidence put before the Joint Select Committee. Surprise, surprise! The Minister for Social Security, Mr Howe, wrote a letter to Dr Blewett, saying: `I would love to have this card and we will make substantial use of it'. But when the Department of Social Security came before the Joint Select Committee, it told the Committee that the Card would not work and would be of no use. Paragraph 1.46 of the Committee's report states:

The Government submission-

I repeat: The Government submission-

reveals that DSS would have no net gain from the introduction of a national identification system.

What a surprise it is that Dr Blewett got a trumped-up letter from Mr Howe saying that he would use it, when the Department told the Joint Select Committee-and, as Senator Walters will state, it told the Estimates Committee in its last hearings, that there was no benefit to the Department of Social Security from this card being introduced. Senator Aulich referred to 60,000 illegal immigrants. What does the report of the Joint Select Committee state? Paragraph 1.56 reads:

From the above exchanges-

that is, with the Secretary to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, who has now been shuffled off to become High Commissioner in New Zealand-

it became clear that the estimates for illegal immigrants were based on guesswork, the percentage of illegal immigrants who worked was based on guesswork, the percentage of visitors who worked illegally came from a departmental study based on guesswork.

And Senator Aulich wants to tell us that he knows all about 60,000 illegal immigrants who can be picked up or deterred by the card, when the figure of 60,000 illegal immigrants is denounced in the evidence put to the Joint Select Committee as guesswork. The considered view of the Joint Select Committee was that that figure was not worth hanging anything upon, let alone hanging Australian citizens upon.

Senator Aulich said: `The Federal Police would like to have something to do with this because it will help tidy up problems of organised crime'. I refer again to the report of the Joint Select Committee. Paragraph 1.64 refers to the submission from the Australian Federal Police, which stated:

The AFP adds, however, that there are no realistic grounds for anticipating any impact on the level of organised crime generally.

It was referring to the introduction of the Australia Card. So the evidence from the Australian Federal Police-and the Minister responsible for the Federal Police, the Special Minister of State, Senator Tate, is in the chamber-to the Joint Select Committee was that no significant impact on organised crime would be achieved by having this card. Yet Senator Aulich tries to pretend something to the contrary.

We come to the question of the views of Mr Costigan. Senator Aulich was concerned to quote Mr Costigan-Mr Costigan's fight against organised crime and the necessity for following various money trails. Before I come to Mr Costigan's evidence, I will refer to an interesting book which was published recently, entitled Card-Carrying Americans-Privacy, Security, and the National ID Card Debate by Joseph W. Eaton. Eaton in his book deals with the questions of national identification systems in the United States of America. I draw people's attention to the fact that the Joint Select Committee noted that the Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification in the United States recommended against the introduction of the national identity card. It stated:

The Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification therefore strongly opposes any new type of state, or local government-issued ID intended to supersede existing documents. In short, FACFI opposes any so-called `National ID card'.

The same thing was said by the Privacy Protection Study Commission in its report to the President of the United States, and in the 1980 report of the United States General Accounting Office. Professor Tracy Westen, Professor of Communications Law and Policy at the University of Southern California, in reviewing Eaton's book, says:

. . . Eaton blinds himself to the virtually limitless capacity of such a system for error. Some estimate that 50 per cent of current FBI records are inaccurate or incomplete, that only 13 per cent of Federal agencies audit their own systems, and that state criminal records are only 12 per cent to 49 per cent accurate. Pity the poor citizen caught in a web of computer errors generating false arrests, lost jobs or damaged credit ratings.

When Mr Costigan came as a witness before the Joint Select Committee, he was as equally concerned about this. He said on page 1232 of the Hansard transcript of evidence to the Joint Select Committee:

If you introduce something like a national identity card-again, going down the track 10 or 20 years, seeing it as it would be then-I think you really have changed the kind of society we have. You have got to be pretty satisfied that the benefits you are getting out of that justify that. I certainly am not satisfied.

Costigan said substantially in his evidence: `Do not introduce the Australia Card, do not proceed down that track'. We are told by Senator Aulich of the wonderful things that will be achieved by this system. It will, he says, be tamper-proof, foolproof and forgery-proof. Yet we saw only a couple of weeks ago in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 13 March 1987:

Children are paying $50 to $100 for fake driving licences in Sydney's west to enable them to buy alcohol and to get into nightclubs.

We have a statement from Senator Archer, the Shadow Special Minister of State, dealing with the case of Frank Duggan which shows up the folly of trying to rely on identity cards which can easily be forged. Senator Archer indicates how Duggan's allegations show the consummate ease with which organised crime is able to provide false driving licences, passport and medical certificates in collusion with allegedly corrupt taxation and transport department officials.

We have a statement from Senator Walsh, made in answer to a question in the Senate some months ago, that money laundering through dealing with bookmakers would be unaffected, untouched by the introduction of a national identity card-that was admitted to by Senator Walsh. An item in the Canberra Times of 19 November 1986 under the heading `Blewett says fake cards could pass' reads:

A forged Australia Card might not immediately be identified, the Minister for Health, Dr Blewett admitted yesterday.

That is why he wanted to make amendments to the legislation, but those amendments have gone by the board to facilitate this shabby Government's cynical attempts to betray the people of Australia in order to provide itself with a double dissolution trigger and dishonour the Prime Minister's repeated pledges that this Parliament would run its full course.

Senator Aulich today in this chamber bleated on about all the people who were in favour of the card. Yet even in the last couple of days we have seen an enormous upsurge of people who really know what the situation is indicating their opposition. The Law Council of Australia, under the chairmanship of Mr Darryl Williams, QC, put out a press statement on 24 March indicating how the Law Council remains opposed to the ID card. The Australian Chamber of Commerce on 30 March said that it is opposed to the introduction of the card. The Australian Bankers Association put a submission to the Government and the major points raised in this submission are that it is considered unrealistic to expect, as would appear to be the case from provisions within the Bill, that the banks would be able to cope with the demands to be put upon them or that it would be cost effective, or that there would be any way in which the banks would support the system being brought forward in its present form. Senator Aulich today told the Senate about the Australian Taxation Office. I believe that the Taxation Office would have more opportunity to get on with catching the tax cheats in this community if senior people like Deputy Commissioners did not have to keep ringing the Labor Government's Federal Treasurer to remind him to put in his personal tax forms. Then the Tax Office would be in a position to get on with doing things. The Tax Office has been slammed by parliamentary committees--


Senator Elstob —If that is all you can come up with, your argument is pretty poor.


Senator PUPLICK —I am not surprised to hear Senator Elstob trying to defend those who do not do the right thing by the tax system. He has got to, because his own Federal Treasurer is part of that. Further, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure in its report `A Taxing Problem' said that the Tax Office is responsible for most of the problems that arise.

Senator Aulich asked why did not the Liberals in office give the Tax Office the capacity to get on with these things. He knows that the evidence that was given to him when he was presiding as Chairman of the Committee indicated that the Tax Office had been given five times as much money as it had spent to get its systems into place. Does anybody know any Commonwealth department, other than the Tax Office which, when given five times as much money as it could actually spend, would not find a way of using that money to get its systems up to scratch? He knows full well where the fault lies. He should be asked what his Government has done in the last four years to make the slightest dent on the Taxation Office. He has the hide to come into the chamber and talk about civil liberties and drag up the conscription argument.

Senator Tate looked embarrassed over that, because Senator Tate knows that he was the Chairman of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee which recommended that that conscription legislation should be taken off the books. I was a signatory to that report and would support that being done, but this Government has not done that. Senator Aulich wants to talk about conscription legislation, when he has had the opportunity for four years to repeal the legislation. Senator Tate's committee had recommended unanimously that that legislation be repealed. Where is the activity from Senator Aulich's Government when he wants to pretend to us that it is concerned about civil liberties? Senator Aulich also wants to talk about the security of departmental files. Let us look at that matter. I quote the National Times on 21 September 1986: `For sale, Social Security files'. There was a response in a news release from the Minister for Social Security, Mr Howe, on 21 September 1986 which states:

The Minister for Social Security, Mr Brian Howe-

it will be remembered that it was Mr Howe's letter that has been dragged in here today to tell us how it is that Mr Howe wants to have the card-

today said that there had been very few cases detected of breaches of confidentiality in information supplied to his department, but any breach was a matter of serious concern.

What has happened about the breach? Nothing. Has anybody been prosecuted? Have any systems been changed or action taken? The answer is no. In fact, quite the contrary. We now have Mr Howe saying that he wants to have the card. His Press release continued:

Any organisation with extensive records is vulnerable to such approaches.

Has he done anything about it? No. Has he changed any systems? No. Has he changed any personnel? No. What he has done is that he has come into the chamber today with a piece of paper given to Senator Aulich to parrot on his behalf saying that what he really would like to do would be to have access to the whole of the Australia Card system.

We then come to the question of the leaks which have occurred in relation to doctors' incomes and things of that nature. We all know from listening to Senator Walsh in this place day by day how unbelievably concerned Senator Walsh is about the reputation of doctors and their position in the community. Mr Loy, Senior Private Secretary in the office of the Special Minister of State, in a letter relating to these leaks, addressed to the Private Secretary to the Minister for Health and dated 11 November 1986, said:

Dr Blewett and Mr Young have exchanged correspondence concerning the number of people who may have had access to information published in the Sydney Morning Herald last year . . .

Last year! Senator Tate is the Special Minister of State and he should pay a bit of attention to this. A leak which occurred in May 1985 and which his Department gets around to responding to only in November 1986 indicates the real concern that this Government has about people's privacy. The letter said:

Dr Blewett and Mr Young have exchanged correspondence concerning the number of people who may have had access to information published in the Sydney Morning Herald last year on certain doctors' Medicare incomes. In its earlier investigations the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said they had identified 197 persons through Australia who had access to the information published in the Herald, notwithstanding the fact that only a small number possessed computer access codes.

Only a small number possessed the codes, yet 197 people had access to the information. Now this Government has the unmitigated nerve to tell the people of Australia that it can put together a system in which their privacy will be protected and, indeed, that it cares a tinker's curse about people's privacy. It has taken the Government 18 months to get to even that stage.

When the Special Minister of State responds to this debate he can tell us what steps he has now taken to do anything about that matter. The answer to that will be none because he is too busy gearing up the Australian Electoral Office for the prospect of some sort of double dissolution and altogether too concerned that he might actually beat Mr Keating's record as the shortest term Labor Minister ever to hold office between the time of his appointment and the time that his Government goes to the polls and gets defeated. The whole problem is that the Government has absolutely no concern about this matter. When Dr Blewett wrote to Dr McNicol, the National Co-Secretary of the Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons, he said:

It is thus always known who has accessed the raw data and who has received information in summarised or extracted format.

It is always known-the 197 people mentioned in Mr Loy's note to the Private Secretary to the Minister for Health! And we are supposed to believe any of the assurances given by this Government in exactly the same way as we are supposed to believe the assurances that there will be no capital gains tax. Indeed, we were also supposed to believe, as Senator Walters has pointed out on a number of occasions and as she pointed out in her speech of 10 December 1986, the Prime Minister's famous proposition:

Let me make a promise so that even the Opposition can understand it. There will be no capital gains tax.

Those were the words of the Prime Minister and we are supposed to put the protection of our civil liberties and the integrity of our personal files on the same level and on the same basis as Prime Minister Hawke's assurance that there would not be a capital gains tax. We are supposed to take Mr Howe's letter to the Minister for Health as overriding what his Department told the Joint Select Committee. As Senator Walters will point out later, representatives of the Department of Social Security have said in various Estimates Committee hearings that the Australia Card is of no use whatsoever and of no interest whatsoever to them, because they know that it will not work.

I come to an editorial in the Catholic Weekly published on 22 October 1986. Is somebody going to include the Catholic Weekly in Senator Aulich's litany of `professional civil libertarians, affluent lawyers, tax cheats, criminals and frauds'? Or will Government senators take this editorial as being a significant indication of community concern? Under the heading `An Identity Crisis'--


Senator Elstob —They are your friends; not ours.


Senator PUPLICK —Senator Elstob says that the Catholics are our friends. I am perfectly happy to have the Catholic Weekly people as friends of mine. I am sure that he would reject them as friends of his. I am not in the least bit surprised that Labor senators would denounce writers for the Catholic Weekly as being no friends of theirs. They have no reason to be friends of theirs when one considers what the Government has done to their school system and what it is doing to their civil liberties.

Under the heading `An Identity Crisis', the editorial indicates the extent to which that significant newspaper is concerned about the Australia Card. Part of the editorial says:

The anti-ID card individual would quickly find life almost impossible.

We then come to Bishop Challen, the Anglican Bishop of Perth, who gave evidence to the Joint Select Committee in Perth. He gave evidence as to why we should not introduce the Australia Card. Perhaps Senator Elstob wants to intervene now and say that the Anglican Church in Western Australia is no friend of the Labor Party. It should not be a friend of the Labor Party when one considers what the Labor Party has done to it. Bishop Challen came before the Joint Select Committee and indicated that we should not introduce this wretched Australia Card because of the extent to which it would change the fundamental nature of the relationship between people and government in our society and why it was not worth pursing.

We on this side of the chamber have made clear the extent to which we have been prepared to support any reasonable legislation dealing with the abuses of the taxation system. I remind members of the Government that no Treasurer in the history of Australia has introduced more significant or more numerous pieces of legislation to combat the abuses and the fraud in the taxation system than John Howard did when he was Federal Treasurer. I remind Government senators that we have said that we will co-operate in any reasonable system which will tighten up the provisions of the social security and immigration systems and which will make the Australian Taxation Office work more effectively. None of those has been taken up or acted upon by the Government. It has been determined to pursue this Australia Card legislation despite the clear statement made by Dr Blewett on 5 February 1987, from which I quoted, that changes would be made to the Australian Card legislation allegedly in order to make the legislation work more effectively.

Instead of actually discharging its responsibility to the people of Australia to at least bring before us a Bill which would take up the concerns exposed by the Joint Select Committee, exposed in the debate and exposed in the public arena, the Government comes before us again with the same flawed Bill. This is the same Bill that the Joint Select Committee rejected; the same Bill that Senator Bolkus attacked; the same Bill that was attacked by Mr Kent, Mr Petersen, Mr Saunderson, and Mr Kennedy; the same Bill that the Labor Party's own policy committee on law reform attacked. The very distinguished Senator Georges also attacked this Bill and he was prepared to be abused. People in this chamber will remember Senator Elstob's disgraceful personal abuse of Senator Georges for having had the courage to speak his own mind and to put the interests of the people of Australia ahead of the dictates of Caucus. People will remember Senator Elstob's disgraceful behaviour on that occasion. Instead of bringing back a Bill which tried to address the issues that had been raised by the Joint Select Committee, the councils of civil liberties, the Law Society, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the bankers and the trade unions that put in submissions opposing the card, the Government brought back the same piece of legislation in a cynical and sleazy attempt to get a technical trigger for a double dissolution.

Let me tell the Senate this: Even if the Government uses this Bill as a trigger, we will be perfectly happy to go out on to the hustings with Government members, at any time of their choosing and under any circumstances of their choosing, and debate not only the Australia Card but the whole approach which this failed and rotten Government has taken towards the economic, social and personal welfare of the people of Australia. We will give them one almighty hiding, at which stage the Australia Card will meet the same fate as this Government will meet at the polls, when both of them will be decisively rejected.