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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1412

Mr DONALD CAMERON(8.00) —I believe that the re-introduction of the Australia Card Bill 1986 into this Parliament is farcical because all the Government is seeking to do is set in place a mechanism whereby, if it wishes, it can bring about a double dissolution. The legislation was soundly defeated in this place as a result of its being blocked in the Senate last year. As one of the honourable members of the Government said previously, there probably has been no legislation in recent years that has been discussed as much as the Australia Card Bill, yet the Government is bringing it back and trotting it out again simply as a political ploy.

It was on 5 February-I learnt about it on 6 February-that the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) announced that the Government intended to re-introduce the Australia Card Bill with amendments. I will quote his words at the time. The amendments were to demonstrate `its willingness to accept any reasonable suggestions to improve the ID card legislation'. That announcement made my birthday, as I read about it, on 6 February. It was an admission that what the Opposition had fought against so hard and for so long was a correct fight. At that time the Government was going to change the legislation that it so strongly stated in this place previously was all correct.

The legislation failed because the Australian Democrats joined the Liberal and National party senators in the Senate to vote against it. The Democrats do not vote with the Liberals and Nationals lightly, but so seriously do they regard the implications and ramifications that they voted against it; they put their votes where they put their mouths. Suddenly, there was a stroke of magic-a bit of turmoil in the Opposition parties, a Prime Minister who sniffed that maybe this would present him with an opportunity to go to the people, a Prime Minister who wants to call the tune in terms of when the election will be called. Suddenly, the amendments of the Minister for Health are all off and the legislation has been re-introduced in exactly the same state as it was when it was introduced into the Parliament last year and defeated in the Senate. It was an exercise of sheer cynicism and very much in line with a promise of no early election.

I ask honourable members to remember that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) told the people in 1983 that there would be no early election. That was one of the things on which he used to win the support of the people. Yet in 1984 there was another election-about 18 months later. We have heard him state in the last year or so `no early election', but suddenly because he thinks that it might be to the Government's advantage to have an early election we have a re-introduction of the Australia Card.

Mr Porter —He is in for a shock when he sees the polls tomorrow.

Mr DONALD CAMERON —I have heard that he will be in for a shock. The polls are showing that the Opposition parties have come up considerably. The Minister for Health, who is in the chamber, fell like a wet rag to the floor when the Prime Minister overrode him and said that the the Government would be going ahead with the legislation exactly as it stood.

It is 201 years since the first identification card system in the world was introduced. It was introduced just prior to the French Revolution after which much of it was abandoned. But the French still had not learnt completely. It was only during the Second World War, during the occupation by Nazi Germany, that the French really learnt, to their sorrow, what could be done with an ID card system. After the Second World War the French abandoned the compulsory nature of that scheme and allowed it to continue on a voluntary basis. The Dutch also suffered as a result of the Second World War and have suffered as a result of an in-place ID system. They abandoned it immediately at the end of the Second World War. They learnt the hard way too, what can be done when an identification system is in place. Here we are in Australia, a nation of just 16 million about to be numbered from one to 16 million by a government party that I used to believe was more civil liberty conscious than even my own Party. How things change.

With the taping and publication of the Kennett-Peacock private telephone conversation this week, we note how people justify any action when the question of the rights to liberty and privacy are wiped from the agenda of discussion as an unimportant consideration. Lest anyone in this place thinks that my comments are tailored to suit an expedient approach to the events of recent days, I repeat what I said in this place when this very Bill was before this Parliament on 13 November 1986. I said:

My attitude on privacy has been consistent for almost two decades. I came in here exactly 20 years ago and in the late 1960s and early 1970s I fought for the introduction of safeguards to ensure that telephone tapping was very tightly regulated. Indeed today, unless it is done illegally in some places, one has to go to a judge and justify why a telephone should be tapped. I have been consistent in my views on privacy. The definition-

I emphasise this-

of privacy is the right to control the supply of information about oneself and it is closely linked to the practice of democracy as we know it in this country.

I repeat: The definition of privacy is the right to control the supply of information about oneself and it is closely linked to the practice of democracy as we know it in this country. If people in the community believe that what befalls a politician is just his or her lot and of little concern, let me warn them that they are indulging in a reckless attitude. Australian men and women have fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy and no home grown government has the right to erode those rights that have been protected with blood and the sacrifice of life. What I am saying is that I do not trust any government. They get their foot in the door, justify it on the emotional ground of seeking to scoop up the millions of tax avoiders and the thousands of social security rip-off merchants and appeal to the basic emotion of people such as the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Brumby). The honourable member for Bendigo stood in here just before 6.30 and said: `Men and women of Australia, how would you like another $5 in your pockets each week, because that is what we will be able to give you if you grant us the right to introduce this ID card'. He is trying to buy principle with a single handful of dollars. The Australian men and women will not be bought that cheaply or easily. They will not abandon principle for a single handful of dollars. The honourable member for Bendigo insulted the intelligence of us all with that plea and presentation of his speech.

Another aspect of the ID card is the growth of bureaucracy. When I came to this Parliament 20 years ago this nation had an annual budget of $6 billion-I say that in very simple, easy to understand terms-and the average wage was $60 a week. In 20 years the average wage has gone up just over seven times. When I say that, I know that there are millions of men and women who do not get the average wage. The average wage has gone up just over seven times, but government expenditure has gone from $6 billion to more than $72 billion; an increase of more than 12 times the expenditure when I came here in 1966. I am not saying for a moment that the Hawke Government is totally responsible for that increase.

Dr Charlesworth —Thank God for that.

Mr DONALD CAMERON —It is not, but the Whitlam Government, my Labor friend, played its role in shooting up the rate of government expenditure, so the honourable member for Perth should not sit there smiling like a Cheshire cat, having just come back from a world hockey tour. I acknowlege the fact that he is in the Parliament. We hardly ever see him here these days, as he traipses around the world playing hockey. It is nice to see that he still has a view on the ailments of this country. That expenditure has been crippling this nation.

The airy-fairy group in this country get the idea that a few more public servants here and there will be for the good of fellow Australians; and so it goes on. What is being proposed with the ID card is the appointment of another 2,100 bureaucrats and the establishment or upgrading of another 300 Medicare officers so that the Government can cope with the branding system; a system that is almost like branding cattle. It will cost all that money just to set the Government's dewy-eyed idea in place. I suggest to the Minister, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and any other Labor Party member in this Parliament that the people of Australia have had a gutful of the Parliament deciding on the best way that their money can be spent. The people of Australia are demanding more than anything that the Government gets out of their pockets and leaves them alone.

The Minister's Department did not even assess the cost of the ID card to industry or the private sector. The Australian Bankers Association has presented information in the past few days which says that in its industry alone there will be an initial outlay of in excess of $60m. Who will end up paying for that? Every person who has a bank account, even the kids. My kids and Government members' kids will have to carry a number. Those same people will be contributing to the cost of the Government's ID card. The Bankers Association went on to say that even when the ID card is in place it will cost another $5m in present money values just to administer on an annual basis. That is just the banking world, but what about the rest of the business world? It will have to set up a mechanism to take care of this Government's airy-fairy views on the ID card.

The Government is taking the easy way out. It talks about social security fraud, which no doubt goes on. We on this side of the House do not say that it does not go on. We all know that it goes on, but the difference between the Government and the Opposition is in the way that we believe it would be best to eliminate and eradicate that fraud. In terms of tax evasion, it is no use the Government embracing the Commissioner of Taxation, Mr Boucher, and quoting him as an authority who backs the Government's views on the ID card. There is no point in the Government saying that the Tax Commissioner says that he really cannot get to grips with tax evasion until he has this system in place, because it has been shown that the Tax Commissioner does not even have the ability to utilise all the information that he is being given now-the type of information which lists the dividends and interest payments that are made to individuals. He does not even know how to check those lists against returns. The Government, instead of introducing a system which would allow that information to be matched, is about to go out and brand everyone like cattle. The honourable member for Richmond (Mr Blunt) talked about giving everybody a dog-tag. That is a moderate approach, but I would rather liken it to the cattle brand, just so that the Government knows what everybody is doing.

I come back to the point I made earlier when I referred to the definition of privacy as the right to control the supply of information about oneself. The Minister and I are different in our thinking, but I am not without respect for him. I have said that previously in this place. But I want him to know that people, including people in the Labor Party, the Australian Democrats, the National Party and the Liberal Party, have a passionate belief that the ID card is an invasion of privacy. It is the erosion of the liberty of the individual to control his or her destiny and to control the information that that person possesses about himself or herself. I ask the Minister to recognise this. Perhaps he has recognised it after all, because it was he who made the announcement that the ID card legislation would be amended. It was his Prime Minister who came in on top of him and, for cheap expedient reasons, saw it as an opportunity to get some piece of legislation knocked back twice by the Senate so that if it were opportune to do so he could break yet another promise and take this Parliament to the people of Australia. (Quorum formed)