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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1773


Senator HARRADINE(8.32) —I have another meeting scheduled on acquired immune deficiency syndrome and I shall be very brief. One thing that concerns me about this whole debate is that there is a good deal of emotionalism contained in the various allegations that are made, particularly by those people who support the Australia Card system. One of the problems that I foresee-and I object to it-is that the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) and others go careering around Australia criticising people for having the temerity to oppose the Australia Card, by implication indicating that those people somehow are unAustralian because they oppose the card. McCarthyism obviously is not dead in Australia, and it is time that this debate got on to a proper and higher level and that those sorts of tags are not attached to people who have genuine civil liberties and other concerns about the Australia Card.

There are strong arguments against the Australia Card as proposed by the Australia Card Bill. However, there are valid arguments for a system of identification which will overcome a number of problems that have been identified in the taxation area and the social security area. It is not beyond the collective wit of the people of Australia, and particularly the collective wit of members of parliament-not that we have got better wit than those outside-to get our act together and to address those problems. A large number of persons have come out opposed to the card and a large number have identified certain problems with the current legislation. The issues raised by the various law societies and computer societies in respect of problems of privacy and so on should have been addressed by the Government. Indeed, it looked as though the Government was going to address those issues. There are a number of media reports that the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) was going to amend the ID card legislation to take account of a number of those criticisms, yet the ID card proposal has come back in its original form.

For my part-and I do not know whether there will be too many with me-I shall call the Government's bluff. If the Government has said that it intends, as the Minister said, to amend the legislation, let us see those amendments. The only way we can see what those amendments are, in my view, is to say: `The Bill is not acceptable in its present form. Let us see what amendments the Government will propose'. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to vote for the Bill into the Committee stage to see just what amendments the Government is considering before something intervened to make the Government choose to come back to its original legislation which, as I say, is unacceptable. The first amendment I would make to the Bill would be to cut out the word Australia from the name Australia Card. It ought to be called what it is and what it is designed to do, and that is an identity card.

Then, so far as I am concerned, there should be a number of serious amendments which go far beyond the amendments that were being talked about in a number of media articles I have referred to. Let it not be thought that I believe that this legislation is acceptable in its current form; it certainly is not. But I believe that it would call the Government's bluff if this Bill were voted into the Committee stage and the Government then had the opportunity to come forward with the amendments it proposes, and for the Committee to consider a number of other amendments which would substantially alter the Bill, but which would more directly reflect the concerns of people within the community who have given deep and long consideration to the privacy and other implications of this measure.